How Coronavirus Will Impact the Film Industry

While the Coronavirus has caused delays of many movies in China, the future is also uncertain given the serious situation of the disease. 

BY: Harry Wang

It has been 3 months since the coronavirus outbreak in China that has now impacted thousands of people around the world. Due to the outbreak, the Chinese government has shut down many public facilities, including movie theaters. While hoping for the best for China and all the people infected, we take a look at how coronavirus has and will impact the Chinese and the world movie market in the coming months.

The current biggest impact on the Chinese movie market is the delay of blockbusters during the Lunar New Year holiday. The Lunar New Year, similar to summer and Christmas in the US, is traditionally packed with major movie releases. Many Chinese blockbusters, including Lost in Russia (2020), Detective Chinatown 3 (2020) and Legend of Deification (2020), were originally scheduled for release on Lunar New Year but are now indefinitely delayed. While most of these films await their new theatrical release date, some have decided to release through other channels. For example, the production company behind Lost in Russia streamed the film for free on the Internet, causing controversy and debate among Chinese filmmakers and theater chains. Furthermore, new films in development, such as director Jia Zhangke’s new film Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, have delayed their productions indefinitely. 

Hollywood blockbusters scheduled for February releases, such as Universal’s 1917 (2020) and Dolittle (2020), Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Netflix’s Marriage Story (2020), and Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit (2020), are similarly delayed. With China rising as one of the biggest movie markets in the world, industry professionals project significant financial loss for Hollywood. Looking to the future, many Hollywood films aiming at the Chinese market may also experience negative impacts. Disney’s live-action remake Mulan (2020) targeted the Chinese market with its lead Liu-Yifei, a well-known Chinese actress. While Mulan is still set to release on March 27th globally, many speculate that it will experience a delay in China, as there are little signs that the situation will be under control by March. Many summer blockbusters, especially movies from franchisees that have enjoyed financial success in China such as Marvel Studios’ Black Widow (2020), should also prepare for possible delays in China. Concurrently, press releases and tours for blockbusters such as MGM’s No Time to Die (2020) are also canceled.

It is no surprise that the Coronavirus is and will be a huge obstacle in China’s way of becoming the biggest movie market in the world. Missing out on the Lunar New Year holidays has incurred loss to the producers and theater chains. Furthermore, preventing the entertainment industry from continuing business operations damaged businesses leaves some companies fearing bankruptcy. Because of the movie industry’s fast-moving pace, the delays are fatal to the Chinese film industry and has extended its impact to the global market. While Hollywood studios prepare for possible delays, even cancellations, the Chinese industry workers are desperate for the government to take action to alleviate further impacts on the industry.

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