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Coronavirus: COVID-19’s impact on the film industry

It seems futile to talk about films in a time where COVID-19 poses such a broad threat to our society. Yet the coronavirus is reaching far and wide, with closures from all the major cinema chains in the UK posing a serious threat to the cinema industry, as streaming services and video on demand become the only option for entertainment in a self-isolating World. The impact has been similarly devastating abroad, with a $5 billion potential loss estimated in the colossal Chinese market alone.

To name just a few, Fantastic Beasts 3, The Matrix 4, Jurassic World Dominion, Mission Impossible 7, and the Batman have all had production delayed or halted due to COVID-19.

Cinema is an intrinsically communal activity, in both its production, and its consumption. This makes the threat of the coronavirus on the film industry evident for not only the present, but also looking forward into the next few years. The disruptive influence of COVID-19 has already been wreaking havoc to the production schedules of many of the film industry’s most dominant franchises. To name just a few, Fantastic Beasts 3, The Matrix 4, Jurassic World Dominion, Mission Impossible 7, and the Batman have all had production delayed or halted due to COVID-19.

These are key money-makers for the big studios, who are going to have to be doing some serious work in order to keep money flowing in, should this crisis continue as long as it currently seems it will. It seems inevitable that the oppressive clutches of the virus shall be reaching ever further, for as the situation continues to develop, it is becoming ever clearer that the risk to life that virus presents makes going to work in an industry such as film is simply not worth it. A sad conclusion for cinemagoers, yet a necessary one.

Another potential threat to cinema that the virus poses is by enhancing the endless march of streaming services yet further. We have already seen video on demand being explored as a potential avenue for studios staying afloat, with NBC Universal bringing forward the releases of films such as The Invisible Man’ and ‘Emma’, in an attempt to make them as financially viable as possible, facing a barren summer. Such a move completely tears down the traditional structure for cinema releases, and it seems inevitable that this is something we will be seeing a great deal more of, with many more releases likely to be pushed back, studios will have to find some way of making their money back.

The threat to the cinema industry that this poses is obvious, as subscription services such as Disney Plus will become ever the more appealing, due to the twofold effect of a slew of relatively new releases, (with Frozen 2 coming to the platform three months early), and people being at home with little to do. The recent decision to close schools will presumably enhance this effect even further, as parents will have kids at home that they need to entertain over a long summer stuck indoors.

Thus, it is essential that the proposed online measures are taken in order to ensure that these smaller releases are not forgotten, UK and US companies are currently engineering an online, virtual market for upcoming productions, hopefully signalling that the film industry will endure at all levels.

Yet it is not only the big blockbusters that are at risk due to the coronavirus, indie releases that depend on film festivals, (gatherings of many people in confined spaces), in order to get distributed are under real threat also. Cannes, however, is yet to be officially cancelled, yet with France on lockdown, it seems to be only a matter of time until it is. Thus, it is essential that the proposed online measures are taken in order to ensure that these smaller releases are not forgotten, UK and US companies are currently engineering an online, virtual market for upcoming productions, hopefully signalling that the film industry will endure at all levels.

All of this sounds a bit bleak for the prospects of cinemas, which were struggling before their forced closure and the long period that people will have to become ever more acquainted with video on demand and streaming services. Yet, I think we should all adopt the hopeful attitude of Tom Hanks; ‘this too shall pass’. and passion for cinema will only grow as we are kept away from the big screen. Many of the big releases which are expected to dominate the summer of film are being postponed, ‘A Quiet Place 2’, and No Time to Die, being the obvious picks, and I’m sure they’ll be worth the wait. The cornerstone, cinematic powerhouses that studios depend upon are still planned for theatrical releases, and time in isolation I’m sure will have audiences flooding the cinemas when they are eventually reopened. Stay safe indoors, and watch some films!

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