“The world will never be the same again.” Sounds dramatic doesn’t it? But that’s just what many are predicting the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will be after over 600,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths have been reported across the globe.
Economies are struggling and millions of people have lost, or are in the process of losing, their jobs. This catastrophic virus has turned the lives of ordinary folk like you and me upside down. One industry that has had to adapt to change incredibly quickly is film. In this special article, founder and editor Adam Brannon looks at how this virus could change the landscape of the film industry forever.
Cinemas across the globe are shut with some of the world’s biggest chains announcing job cuts, unsure of when their doors will open again. Odeon, VUE, Cineworld, Picturehouse and AMC to name but a few are all closed indefinitely, costing these companies billions of pounds in lost revenue. For an industry that is already struggling to deal with the onslaught of streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV and now Disney+, the damage could be irreparable.
The knock-on impacts of this can be felt right across the industry, as massive tentpole films that would drive thousands of customers to cinemas have had their release dates postponed. The first to go was Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, No Time to Die, and from then on, the number of films being pushed back has been like a runaway train.
Films that have had their release dates postponed due to coronavirus include:
- A Quiet Place Part 2
- Minions: The Rise of Gru
- Black Widow
- Furious 9
- Wonder Woman 1984
The list goes on and on, with many of the films that have been cancelled touted to gross over $1billion a piece.
In the UK, the final weekend that some cinemas dared to remain open, 13th-15th March, chains saw a total gross just shy of £6million, the lowest since Box Office Mojo records began way back in 2001, and it probably would go back further still, had the data been there to analyse. The difference in percentage terms to 2019 for the same weekend was even more shocking, coming in at -56%, the sharpest decline ever recorded.
By May 2020, analysts are predicting that the total loss of revenue due to coronavirus alone will be around $10billion, rising from $7billion where we are currently at the end of March.
The world’s second-largest cinema chain, Cineworld, has warned that the impacts of COVID-19 may see it go out of business as it struggles to deal with its large debt, currently standing at $3.6billion. The chain, which has its HQ in London had been pursuing a takeover deal of Canadian chain, Cineplex, though the longevity of that deal has now been thrown into doubt.
Despite the concerns however, chief executive of Cineworld Mooky Greidinger remained in good spirits when interviewed, expecting the acquisition to be completed by June.
But it isn’t just ready-to-release movies that have been sidelined, those currently in production have also had to suspend filming, meaning the impacts of COVID-19 on the movie industry will be felt long after the virus has subsided.
Jurassic World: Dominion only started filming in late January, moving to the UK in February, just before the epidemic reached British shores: it has now postponed production for an indefinite amount of time. Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Robert Pattinson’s outing as Bruce Wayne in The Batman are just two others.
The question studios now need to ask themselves is whether they opt to release films on-demand to recoup some of the immense costs involved, like Universal has done with The Invisible Man, or simply wait until the virus has passed to announce new release dates, in the hope that the cinema-going public don’t take too long to return to the silver screen. After all, the costs of creating a summer tentpole film like those mentioned above can range from anything like $60million to $300million+.
But that isn’t the whole story. With Disney buying up the likes of Fox and the rights to so many franchises, the House of Mouse is in an enviable position that smaller studios like MGM and Paramount just can’t replicate. The impacts of postponing a film to them are much greater, and the options need to be weighed up incredibly carefully.
In China, where the epidemic began, there had been talks of allowing cinemas to re-open, showing older films in an effort to entice the public back. However, this was short-lived as the next day, the Chinese government ordered the closure of any that had opened their doors due to an influx of imported cases of COVID-19.
It would be nice to say that the end is in sight, however, that is simply not the case. Staff at major UK cinema chains have hit out at a lack of clarity from their employers, with many being made redundant with very little notice, despite government help with salary payments for up to three months.
It’s clear that cinema chains and film studios will be counting the costs of COVID-19 for years to come, but it remains to be seen just when we will all be able to “sit back, relax, and get ready, it’s about to begin” once again.
What do you think the impacts of COVID-19 will be on the film industry? Leave a comment in the box below.
Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/d077f478-6913-11ea-800d-da70cff6e4d3