Popcorn Picks: COVID-19 stops Hollywood dead in its tracks


Photo credit: Richard Andrus

Mike Kelley and Richard Andrus

The film and television industries are preparing to take a substantial financial hit of over $20 billion. Many initial reports have declared this downfall will alter both for years to come.

Theatrical Releases

The majority of the financial hit in the film industry is likely due to an abundance of upcoming theatrical releases having their productions and release dates halted as global conditions have worsened.

“Mulan,” the live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated feature, was due to release in theaters on March 27, but has since been pulled from the company’s release schedule along with “The New Mutants,” “Antlers” and Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow,” the first film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Rumors have begun that “Mulan” and “Black Widow” may both premiere on Disney+ instead of a traditional theatrical release. As of yet, representatives from Disney have not released a statement on this matter.

Warner Brothers have since followed suit and delayed the latest iteration in the DC Cinematic Universe, “Wonder Woman 1984,” until Aug. 14. The multimedia conglomerate also pulled the animated feature “Scoob!” and the adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” from their release schedule.

Sony Pictures have done the same and pushed back the majority of their films slated for summer 2020, including “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” and “Morbius,” until 2021. At the time of writing, the studio’s films for this fall, such as “Venom 2” and “Monster Hunter,” have not been delayed.

Universal has delayed “No Time to Die” and “F9,” the latest films in the James Bond and “Fast and Furious” series, by eight and 11 months respectively alongside other films on its release schedule.

Last but not least, Paramount has shifted the release of three of their films. “A Quiet Place Part II” will now release on Sept. 4, “Top Gun: Maverick” on Dec. 23 and “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run” on July 31.

On the other hand, an untold amount of films have paused all production to prevent the spread of the virus, including “Mission Impossible 7,” “The Matrix 4” and several live-action Disney remakes.

The outbreak has also brought upon the postponement of multiple film festivals, including but not limited to Cannes and Tribeca.

As for Cannes, organizers have announced how they are hoping to hold the festival from late June to early July instead of the original dates of May 12 to 23. Tribeca representatives have yet to announce rescheduled dates.

Theater Closure

In consideration of safety concerns worldwide, AMC, Regal and other movie theater chains have closed all of their locations worldwide for roughly up to 12 weeks and can possibly extend to later if necessary. This action, accompanied by the severity of the pandemic, has brought international box offices nearly silent.

Last week, the U.S. box office reported zero revenue for the first time in history. Total sales for the week amounted to $5,179, almost entirely from the independent film “Phoenix, Oregon.” The industry is a far cry from how it was doing last year when it generated $204,193,406.

These figures are comparable to how the box office throughout eastern-Asia reported an enormous 85 percent decline in sales within the first two months of the year.

Adam Aron, CEO of AMC, has called on the U.S. government to provide financial assistance to the movie theater industry to survive during the pandemic. During an interview on MSNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Aron elaborated upon his request by asserting how every theater in the country is closing and will have economic and societal consequences if not relieved.

Shortly after this appearance, AMC furloughed over 600 corporate employees, including Aron. They make up less than one percent of the estimated 150,000 workers in the film industry who have been furloughed or let go due to the pandemic.

The board of directors and CEO of Cinemark Theaters have announced they will all be forgoing their entire salaries for the inevitable future to support the corporation during the pandemic.

In light of what’s going on, select theaters remain open to some extent.

Two such theaters, University Mall and Cinema Arts in Fairfax, Va., are not showing any movies but are still finding ways to stay afloat. Mark O’Meara, the owner of both establishments, has been selling “curbside concessions” to ensure that his employees get paid and can financially survive through the current climate.

Between five and ten percent of drive-in theaters in the U.S. are still open as well, allowing for a safe and entertaining excuse for people to escape their homes while remaining socially distant from others.

EVO Entertainment, a theater chain based in Texas, turned the parking lot of one of its locations into a “drive-in” experience. By painting the exterior wall of the theater with high-grade white paint along with setting up sanitary and social distancing measures, EVO has started screening films for movie fans to come and see for free. The cinema has also made it possible to order concessions with this new initiative, with customers being able to choose what they would like through a mobile application, which will then be delivered to them by an employee.

Impact on Television

The current status of the television industry differs slightly from its film counterpart.

Over the past month, every channel on television has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another.

Hundreds, if not thousands of programs in production around the world, including “Atlanta,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Witcher” and countless others, have halted filming, leaving their release in jeopardy.

Furthermore, several major sporting events have been affected, with the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games until 2021 and the cancelation of the Wimbledon Championships for the first time since World War II.

These recalls have turned the bulk of sports channels into a broken record, replaying past games and documentaries following the ruling by sporting leagues to suspend or cancel their seasons.

In the long term, this crisis has disrupted the industry’s annual development cycle, destroying the majority of network programming slated to premiere this Fall in its path.

Nonetheless, the events of the past month have prompted a dramatic increase in the total viewing of television worldwide, broadly due in part to millions working remotely from home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Nielsen reported that as cases rose in South Korea and Italy, television viewership shot up 17 and 6.5 percent respectively. The research firm reported similar findings throughout the U.S., where television usage shot up approximately 18 percent on March 22 from the week prior.

Viewership may very well be up due to how broadcast news stations such as CNN, MSNBC and BBC News have grown into hubs regarding COVID-19, providing the latest global happenings and most effective prevention methods around the clock.

Then again, the news is not the only content being created during the pandemic.

As for children’s programming, Nickelodeon, Disney and Sesame Workshop have started to make content which enlightens the latest generations about the pandemic and how to stay safe during it.

Educational website BrainPop has also released a short video on COVID-19, which works to enlighten children on the outbreak while easing their fears of what they see of it through mainstream media.

The Weather Channel has also started airing science lessons every hour, educating kids even in these dark and cloudy times.

In terms of more mature content, select late-night talk shows such as “Conan,” “The Daily Show” and “The Tonight Show” are being adapted and produced from quarantine as well with iPhone-filmed monologues and interviews via video chat.

At the end of a special broadcast of “The Late Late Show,” host James Corden expressed his struggles with life throughout the outbreak.

“It feels so beyond our comprehension, all of it, that I’ve found I get sort of overwhelmed with sadness in it all,” said Corden.

Despite his anxieties, Corden said it is best to accept your feelings and to remain positive.

“It’s OK to feel anxious. The best thing we can all do is kind of breathe through that and put our minds in a positive place,” said Corden.

Contact the writers: [email protected] & [email protected]

Twitter: @RAndrusTWW & @MKelleyWW