Bond, Mulan, BTS, and more: How coronavirus is hitting Hollywood
As the number of those infected by coronavirus continues to spread, enflaming concerns from health organizations worldwide, Hollywood is already taking steps in preparation for a massive impact on the industry.
Movie theaters have almost entirely closed down in China, which makes up one of the largest percentages of Hollywood's international box office revenue. The financial loss is expected to be in the billions, according to some analysts.
Meanwhile, studios seem to have largely been crippled for the time being. On March 4, MGM officially announced No Time to Die, the James Bond film starring Daniel Craig and Rami Malek, was pushed from its April release dates all the way to November as a financial decision in the wake of worldwide theater closures due to coronavirus fears. The studio previously canceled the film's premiere and press tour in China. According to Deadline, the film was initially planned for a red-carpet rollout in Beijing in April before taking the cast to other parts of the country. Previous Bond film Spectre made $83.5 million in China, while Skyfall made $59.3 million.
In the week beginning with March 8, other big movies pulled from theaters were Paramount Pictures's A Quiet Place Part II (originally set for March 20, 2020 in theaters) and Universal's Fast & Furious 9 (bumped a year out of its May 22, 2020 slot).
The Walt Disney Company subsequently delayed theatrical releases for the live-action Mulan, X-Men horror spin-off The New Mutants (which had already been delayed two years due to the Disney-Fox merger), and Searchlight Pictures' Keri Russell horror film Antlers. The studios also delayed all productions for its live-action film slate, including the live-action Little Mermaid (once set to start filming the week beginning with March 15), Marvel's Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, the Disney+ Home Alone reboot, The Last Duel with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley, and pre-productions for Peter Pan & Wendy and Shrunk.
Disney was initially in a "wait and see" mode for its upcoming releases with plans to adjust as needed. This year, there weren't any major releases for any of its films in China, with the exception of the Oscar-winning Searchlight Pictures title Jojo Rabbit that hit the art-house circuit.
It's unclear when Disney would be able to bring Chinese theaters Mulan, considered a high-stakes film for not only being a remake of such an important animated movie that pushed the needle forward for Asian representation on screen, but also the Mulan legend's significance in Chinese culture. The film stars Chinese actress Liu Yifei, who is already known by the Chinese markets through her past work.
"I certainly wasn't aware of how deeply important [the legend] is to Mainland Chinese — all children are taught it," director Niki Caro said in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview. "She is so meaningful that many places I went, people would say, 'Well, she comes from my village.' It was wonderful to feel that profound connection — but also terrifying." Mulan will premiere in the U.S. on March 27.
For Warner Bros., concerns are low at the moment, given that the studio doesn't have a film being released in April. We're told an international presence wasn't on the docket for Ben Affleck's The Way Back, in U.S. theaters March 6. The Batman, the studio's big blockbuster with Robert Pattinson that is currently filming, is set up in the U.K., which so far has a low number of infected citizens. However, officials expect more cases to emerge.
Sony's outlook has been the same as all the studios: it's an ever-evolving situation. While plans were initially unchanged, the company delayed the European release of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway from March to Aug. 7. The U.S. release is expected to drop on the same date. The film is considered an internationally driven property, and with the mass theater closures abroad, Sony made a similar move to MGM and Universal with Bond. Couple with piracy risks and Trolls now releasing on the Easter holiday in domestic theaters, it made more sense to bump the title.
Adam Aron, head of AMC movie theaters, remarked during an earnings call that 22 out of 47 theater locations in Italy are now closed for a week. "Milan and its environment aren’t on a quarantine or lockdown," he said. "We did it to cooperate with local government as a precaution." On March 13, AMC took action in the U.S. by announcing "social distancing" that would reduce the number of theater seats sold by 50 percent.
Paramount further announced it's "altering production plan" for Mission: Impossible 7, starring Tom Cruise. The film's three-week shoot in Venice, Italy was halted when local officials shut down public gatherings. As of now, at least 650 cases of infection and 17 cases of death have been reported in Italy.
“During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts," Paramount said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.”
We're also beginning to see TV productions halt in light of the virus. CBS moved to temporarily suspend production on The Amazing Race season 33. After filming three episodes, the world-traveling contestants had only visited England and Scotland.
"All contestants and production staff are in the process of returning home. At this time, no Racers or anyone on the production team traveling with them have contracted the virus, or shown symptoms, and we are not aware of anyone being exposed to it," a statement from a CBS spokesperson reads. "Out of an abundance of caution, everyone involved in the show will continue to be monitored when they return home. The health and well-being of the Racers and the production team are our top priorities." A new start date hasn't been determined.
Productions for Disney+'s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, CBS' Survivor, and The CW's Riverdale were also disrupted as a precaution. On March 13, Warner Bros. Television formally moved to suspend productions on more than 70 series and pilots, including The CW's The Flash as a precaution.
Beginning Monday, March 16, all late-night TV shows that film in New York City would go on as planned but without live studio audiences. That includes The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC), and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central). Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS) was the first of these to put on a show without an audience on the night of Wednesday, March 11. Daytime talk shows, including The View, had already begun doing the same.
According to two sources, HBO recently suspended international business-related travel for its workers. We're hearing of similar circumstances for multiple other studios, including Sony. Lionsgate and Starz eliminated non-essential domestic and international business travel.
Plans for the television Upfronts, in which networks roll out their casts and crews of upcoming programs to offer press and marketers early looks, are changing course, as well. ViacomCBS was the first to cancel plans for its live Upfront presentation on May 13, opting for a "digital showcase to unveil all of the premium content." NBCUniversal then announced it would be doing the same. The company will televise and stream its presentation for the 2020-21 season, initially planned for May 11, so that "fans and marketers alike cane tune-in," as a press release notes.
Beyond the studio setting, festivals and other industry events are taking a precautionary approach.
As Cannes, France reported its first case of coronavirus, organizers behind the Cannes Film Festival, which typically announces its lineup in April before the event in May, are monitoring the situation. "As of today, it is still premature to express assumptions on an event scheduled in two months and a half," a spokesperson for the festival said in a statement to Variety. "In due course and depending on the occurrences, the Festival de Cannes will naturally take all the necessary measures, aiming at ensuring the protection of all attendees and preserving their health during the event in Cannes, under the responsibility of public authorities, in particular the State and the City of Cannes."
March's South by Southwest film and music festival was officially canceled after the city of Austin issued an order on March 6. It was the first time in 34 years that SXSW did not go on in the month of March. "As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that 'there's no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.' However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we honor and respect the City of Austin's decision," a statement read.
Originally, organizers were determined to proceed as planned in spite of cancellations from some attendees and companies. Amazon Studios, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Apple, WarnerMedia (which includes HBO, HBO Max, and CNN), Lionsgate, Starz, and Ozzy Osbourne all either pulled plans entirely or reduced their plans at SXSW over concerns.
CinemaCon, which was slated to begin at the end of March and was one of the last holdouts, followed other festivals' suit and on March 11 canceled the 2020 edition. "While local outbreaks vary widely in severity, the global circumstances make it impossible for us to mount the show that our attendees have come to expect. After consultation with our attendees, trade show exhibitors, sponsors, and studio presenters, NATO has decided therefore to cancel CinemaCon 2020," said a statement from NATO’s John Fithian and Mitch Neuhauser, Variety reported. Last year, the event for global movie theater owners offered first looks at films like Cats and Knives Out, but that won't be happening this year.
In the theme park sector, Universal Studios Japan announced a "temporary closure" of the park from Saturday, Feb. 29 to Sunday, March 15. "The period that we are closed may change according to the situation and in that case we will make further announcement," a statement reads. "All tickets can be refundable only by your travel agency not in the park." Tokyo Disneyland Resort also closed its Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea parks "out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members" from Feb. 29 to March 15.
Outside of Hollywood, boy band BTS dropped four tour dates in Seoul, South Korea and Green Day nixed tour stops in Asia. "We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we’ll be announcing the new dates very soon," according to a statement from Green Day. Reports anticipate Coachella will move its planned festivities to October; the Ultra Music Festival in Miami was officially postponed to 2021; and DragCon L.A. 2020, the RuPaul's Drag Race-affiliated convention, canceled its events.
This article was last updated with new developments on March 13, 2020.
- Mission: Impossible 7 halts production in Italy due to threat of coronavirus
- Coronavirus fears prompt BTS to cancel tour dates in South Korea