Curing the Box Office Blues In the Age of Coronavirus

Movie theatre photo: Wikipedia

The ultimate in delayed theater viewing is happening in Hollywood, but home viewing might be a cure due to two trends with origins in China.  Last December, an outbreak of coronavirus disease-19 started in Wuhan China that’s now creating a cascade effect in the postponement of some of the hottest, most anticipated movie premieres of 2020—not only in China, but also in the U.S. and the U.K.

The global film market has reportedly already faced nearly 2 billion dollars in losses over the past two months due to plummeting ticket sales amid the outbreak, citing box-office data company Comscore and a report from China’s Ent Group.

Major Chinese blockbusters like Enter the Fat Dragon and Lost in Russia, slated for theatrical release in January 2020, got sidelined in favor of online premieres. What remains to be seen is whether the unprecedented disease may change how American movie studios engage in global theatrical releases going forward as some studios are now timing 2020 cinema releases with unprecedented same day releases on digital home viewing platforms.

The movie premiere cancellation crisis started stateside and across the pond on March 4, when the already twice-delayed Bond 25 movie: No Time to Die hit another obstacle. MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced “that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November from 2020.  

On March 16, NBCUniversal announced that it would make some of its movies available digitally the same day they are released in the few movie theaters that remain open, including Trolls World Tour. The glittery, computer animated jukebox musical on film produced by DreamWorks Animation is scheduled for theatrical release this Friday,  April 10 and also on Amazon Prime Video, but not on Disney Plus.

The theatrical release of movies in tandem with home viewing platforms is not a novel concept, but NBCUniversal’s same-day timing is.  Last November 2019, Netflix released The Irishman, which became the first blockbuster to bypass wide theatrical release before heading to the binge-box of home entertainment. 

A quick list of coronavirus caused disruptions of all major studio releases for early spring 2020, including production of heavily anticipated Netflix shows, appears below:

Disney

On March 12, Disney confirmed that three of its biggest releases of the year — Mulan (scheduled for March 27), The New Mutants (scheduled for April 3), and Antlers(scheduled for April 17) — would be postponed “out of an abundance of caution.” Disney did not set new release dates, but had expected to start building big box office business last weekend.

On March 17, Disney announced the postponement of the release of MCU’s, Black Widow from May 2020 to November 2020. Disney also postponed the May releases of “Woman in the Window,” from 20th Century Studios and “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” from Searchlight.

Paramount

A Quiet Place Part II director John Krasinski announced via Twitter that the movie’s planned March 19 release date would be delayed until September 4

Top Gun: Maverick was also pushed back by Paramount. The release of the eagerly awaited sequel to 1986’s Top Gun went from June 24 to sometime in December.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures also announced on March 12, 2020, that it would delay the release date of the ninth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise by 11 months, from May 22  to April 2, 2021.

Warner Brothers

On March 24, Warner Brothers announced it would delay Wonder Woman 1984 from June 5 to August 14.

Netflix Shows
Netflix is also pausing production on all scripted TV shows and films in the United States and Canada starting March 16, per industry sources. Henry Cavill’s The Witcheris the first major TV drama shot in the United Kingdom to be shut down due to coronavirus. Also included in the long list of shows postponed are Stranger Things 4 and Sex/Life starring Sarah Shahi.

Movie theaters are getting hit hard by delayed movie releases despite the $2 trillion dollar stimulus bill approved in Washington D.C.

The 305 remaining drive-in movie theaters in America saw an uptick in ticket sales fueled by cautious movie fans seeking an escape, but stay at home orders in most states have virtually wiped out the brief resurgence.  


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