How the coronavirus outbreak is roiling film & entertainment industries

March 8, 2020

Most recently, the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die has been delayed from April to November.

Liu Yifei, star of Disney’s Mulan, which is facing an indefinitely delayed release. Walt Disney Pictures

The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in December, has had sweeping effects in the public health, business, and travel sectors, among others. And while the repercussions for the entertainment industry may seem to pale in comparison to the clear threat the virus poses to human life, the ripple effects do have implications for people around the world who make a living producing and distributing movies, music, and more. The immense and lucrative Chinese film industry was almost immediately hit as movie theaters across the country were closed and major releases were delayed. But Hollywood soon began to feel the effects too, and as time passes, the impact of the coronavirus on the global film and entertainment industries will certainly grow.

Consequences of the outbreak on these industries could range from lowered attendance at film festivals and disruptions in film distribution to delayed or canceled movie releases and concert dates to curtailed on-location film shoots. Financial ramifications will likely be felt by studios, filmmakers, theater owners, and more for months, or even years.

Here’s a timeline of developments and responses to the outbreak in the entertainment industry so far. Most recently, the worldwide release date for No Time to Die, the 25th installment in the James Bond franchise, was shifted from early April to November 25 — the first major Hollywood tentpole film to change its planned release date due to concerns over the virus.

January 22: Major film releases canceled in China

The biggest films of China’s year are usually scheduled to release during the Lunar New Year holiday, but mounting fears of the coronavirus and public reticence to be in crowded spaces caused distributors to voluntarily cancel or postpone several film releases.

Huanxi, distributor of the Chinese blockbuster Lost in Russia, announced that the film would premiere online for free. Promotional materials encouraged audiences to “stay safely at home and watch Lost in Russia with your mom.”

February 4: Mulan’s Chinese release date is delayed indefinitely

Disney’s live-action version of Mulan was set for worldwide release on March 27, but on February 4 Disney confirmed that the film was unlikely to be released in China that day, since theaters remain closed by order of the government. The movie, which is set in China, stars Chinese American actress Liu Yifei, and features Chinese superstars like Gong Li, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen among its cast, was expected to rake in revenue at the Chinese box office. It’s unclear when the film will be released in China.

Other high-profile American releases, such as Oscar Best Picture nominees Jojo Rabbit and 1917, also saw their planned Chinese February release dates canceled.

February 26: Mission: Impossible VII shuts down production in Venice, while northern Italian cultural sites close

A coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, in particular Venice, has had numerous cultural implications.

On February 26, Paramount Pictures announced that the seventh installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, starring Tom Cruise, halted a planned three-week shoot in Venice.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our cast and crew, and efforts of the local Venetian government to halt public gatherings in response to the threat of coronavirus, we are altering the production plan for our three-week shoot in Venice, the scheduled first leg of an extensive production for Mission: Impossible 7,” a Paramount spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. “During this hiatus we want to be mindful of the concerns of the crew and are allowing them to return home until production starts. We will continue to monitor this situation, and work alongside health and government officials as it evolves.”

February 28: K-pop megastars BTS cancel concert series in Seoul

The hugely popular K-pop group BTS canceled a series of planned concerts in Seoul, scheduled for April 11 and 12 and April 18 and 19 at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. The group’s management agency said the decision was made due to the impossibility of predicting the scale of the outbreak in South Korea come April and cited the health and safety of the musicians themselves, workers, and concertgoers. Two hundred thousand fans were expected to attend.

Days earlier, BTS had asked fans to avoid a series of TV appearances scheduled to promote their newest album, Map Of The Soul: 7, which had originally been planned to include studio audiences.

The group also appealed to fans via a streamed press conference. “Health is always on our minds these days, and our messages of facing your inner self and loving yourself are ultimately only possible when you’re healthy, especially since it is very risky outside these days,” one of the singers, Jimin, said. ”I hope you take care of yourself.”

February 28: The Cannes Film Festival makes a statement regarding the upcoming festival

The Cannes Film Festival, arguably the most prestigious film festival in the world, issued a statement after the first case of coronavirus in nearby Nice, France, was confirmed by the city’s mayor. (Cannes is a seaside resort town located in the French Riviera, about 30 km from Nice.) The 2020 festival is slated to take place May 12 through 23, and draws thousands of industries and press from around the globe each year.

“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 told 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 4: The worldwide release date for No Time to Die is pushed back to November 25

The upcoming James Bond movie No Time to Die had been originally slated for worldwide release in early April. Though the film’s Chinese premiere and publicity had been delayed on February 16, the studio announced on March 4 that the film’s release would be delayed worldwide until November 25.

According to the Hollywood Reporter and the film’s official Twitter account, the decision was made by the film’s producers, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. It’s the first Hollywood tentpole to make a major shift to its release plans because of concerns over the virus.

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How the coronavirus outbreak is roiling film & entertainment industries