Without a doubt, the proliferation of the deadly coronavirus is a deeply tragic thing. As of this writing, over 1,000 people have died from it (though most have resided within mainland China), and it has led to extreme measures all over the globe. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak as a global health emergency, in hopes that it would allow them to act quickly and prevent further spreading.
Of course, the truly tragic thing about it are the lives affected and lost to the ailment, but it is something that will also have huge impact on the film industry. According to Variety, cinemas have been shut down and productions have been halted entirely. This has disrupted talent and crew schedules and production company stocks have tumbled as well.
“In the short term especially, the impact is huge,” Li Dan, a Beijing-based film festival organizer, told Variety. “And the hardest thing is that we don’t know when this virus will stop.”
Regardless of that big fat question mark, the assumption at this point is that theaters will remain closed until April. But you never know how the virus life cycle will turn out.
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“If, God forbid, we’re still talking about this virus by summer and theaters are not operating and the country is in a form of economic paralysis, that impact is way beyond a movie,” one anonymous source told the outlet. “For their local movie business, studios are only a [portion] of it. The local industry usually accounts for 55% to 60% of box office revenue, and exhibition is 100% owned by China. Their loss dwarfs anything the studios have at risk.”
Exhibitors are also huge losers here. CEO of Chinese distributor United Entertainment Partners, Jiang Wusheng, believes that unless the government intervenes, some cinemas will shutter permanently. This could lead to a situation where some cinemas are acquired by bigger chains. And even if the coronavirus goes away, there is disagreement as to whether or not the rebound will be quick or slow from consumers. Some think viewers won’t risk it while others think they’ll be pent up and ready to watch more movies.
“Companies like Huayi Brothers, Ding-long Culture, Great Wall Movie & Television, Lead Eastern Investment, and Talent TV and Film, which have lost money for two consecutive years already, will likely go bust,” independent producer Shan Dongbing told the outlet.
And, of course, this will affect studios outside of China. Over the past 15 years or so, the international box office has increased in overall importance. Hollywood relies on foreign ticket sales to help push their movies into money-making territory. In fact, with certain projects, like Venom, were it not for China, the movies would likely gross hundreds of millions of dollars less.
With films like Mulan coming down the pipe from Disney, this is likely to have a huge impact. And since we have no idea when theaters will reopen, it is impossible for studios to effectively reschedule movies.
So…like many things in life, all we can say is…the future is unclear. It’ll all depend on how quickly this outbreak subsides, and even when it does, we have no way of predicting if consumers will take to the theaters.
What do you think? Will this be something that impacts the international box office for years to come? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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