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Hollywood on Hold; Covid-19 and the Film Industry

Updated: Apr 16


The current pandemic has displaced workers of one profession significantly, and they are the least essential workers of all.


Actors.


Not just actors, but all television and film professionals. As we’ve seen over the past weeks, TV show hosts, news anchors, actors and musicians have had to capture our attention through the magic of video chat apps like Zoom.


Movies themselves have also been displaced, with a large slate of blockbusters being postponed until this crisis is over.


Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan has been postponed indefinitely, and the highly-anticipated sequel to Wonder Woman has been pushed back from June to August.



In the last of half of 2019, an online protest called for a boycott of Mulan, after the star of the upcoming film made comments in support of the Chinese government's actions in Hong Kong.


For a more complete list of these announcements, click Here .



In recent years, Hollywood has turned to foreign language distribution, to bring in ticket sales from the rest of the globe. Spectre, the most recent Bond film, made $70 million dollars during its opening weekend in the U.S. That turned into $200 million total domestic box office sales.


The newest film in the franchise, No Time to Die, was supposed to be released this month. It has since been pushed back to November. As of now, there are estimates to the losses it could potentially face.


Avengers; Endgame opened domestically by making $357 million for its parent company, Disney. That's a million dollars over it’s estimated budget.



Marvel’s latest film, Black Widow, is the long awaited solo film about the titular Russian assassin.

The mega-budget comic book action-thriller was originally slated to be released on May 1st, 2020. As of this article, the earliest the film will be released is November, 2020.


Certain titles from Disney have totally foregone a theatrical release, opting instead for a boost from subscribers to Disney+, the media giant’s new streaming service. These titles, however, are not the high profile, high budget juggernauts like Black Widow or Mulan.



Artemis Fowl, based on the young-adult fantasy series, is now slated to release on Disney+ after almost twenty years in production talks. The eighth and last Artemis Fowl book was published in 2012. The first talks of a film adaptation were in 2001, following the release of the first book.The long awaited film was denied the chance to ever appear in theaters.


Remember in 2000 when Pottermania took hold, and young fans of the Harry Potter series lined up for hours to see Daniel Radcliffe ride a CGI broomstick?



Artemis Fowl was denied the chance to capitalize on that new batch of avid young readers.

The series had been promoted heavily to fans of the recent Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fans. Many of the readers read until the end, the last book coming out in their mid-twenties.


The phenomenon was all set to go; all they had to do was film it, but Hollywood decided it had had its fill of magical adventures.


Besides, the concept was too weird for the safe and sanitized Hollywood executives. A rich young boy, who also happens to be a criminal mastermind, has uncovered the secret to the existence of fairies. He plots to capture these creatures in order to steal their gold. The story is carried by the differing perspectives of the titular child, and the fairies and humans who get caught up in his scheme.


The cover of the first edition of Artemis Fowl.

By all accounts Artemis Fowl was never going to be a massive success for Disney. More likely, the studio has lost a ton of money on it already and just wants to try and make something back, probably due to a contractual agreement they need to adhere to.


The other aspect to think about during this pandemic is how people are consuming the media.Theaters, already fighting hard against the threat streaming service pose, are now being forced to close. Orders have been issued by multiple state governments making certain businesses non-essential, and severely discouraged gatherings of more than ten people. Other governments have issued stay at home orders. Theaters, which require a mobile customer base, are now dead and empty.


When people are forced to sit on the couch, Netflix wins.



In recent years, Netflix had tuned its gaze to theaters, notably by buying an iconic single screen cinema in New York this past November, and using it to screen it’s Oscar nominated film Marriage Story. Netflix has released several other movies in theaters. This is for one reason only; recognition, both by consumers, and the Hollywood establishment.


Netflix wants to be taken seriously.


For movies to be considered as eligible for awards like Oscars and Golden Globes, they must have had a theatrical release within the calendar year. For this reason, movies expected to make it to the awards shows are sometimes released on a limited run in December, in L.A. and New York, to make it on this year's list.


However, in the face of existential crisis, theaters may soon not hold the power they once had.



If the pandemic keeps us in our homes for longer than predicted, will movies get to be released theatrically this year? Will the Hollywood money machine recover?


Netflix seems to have the attention of almost all quarantined households right now. It’s extremely captivating, long form entertainment, from Tiger King to The Crown, has racked up impressive numbers during this pandemic.



Some have speculated that a return to drive-in movie theaters may be necessary. At least one movie theater has tried to adapt to their situation. A Texas theater owner started screening movies in his parking lot, establishing a makeshift drive-in. But millions of Americans don’t drive, and states with inclement weather would find it hard to show movies outside. This is probably not the solution to Hollywood’s situation.



In my opinion, most of Hollywood is probably waiting anxiously for this to blow over. The studio executives are crossing their fingers hoping for a miracle cure.


The U.S. government has already provided emergency relief for industries hit hard by this crisis. But not service workers, and definitely not movie theater employees.


As the U.S. economy collapses around this problem, millions of workers are left unsure as to their livelihoods.


But at least they can watch Money Heist on Netflix.





-CH



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