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Opinion: Covid-19 affecting cinemas, what’s next and Contagion film popularity

by Shane A. Bassett

The Covid-19 has caused cinema releases to shift around the movie calendar for the best possible position. Certain blockbusters take several years in the planning and a release date can often make or break box office results whilst film studios go out of their way as to not be competing against other studio ‘tent-poles’. That term is an industry label used for highlighted big movies with huge expectations within the all important opening weekend.

Covid-19 affecting cinemas
Center for Disease Control/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire/dpa

Recent decision by the suits at Universal Pictures to eliminate the upcoming James Bond film, No Time To Die, from their immediate schedule less than a month out of the early April release to November is a landmark and wouldn’t have been easy one to make. Global hysteria around the outbreak of Coronavirus or COVID-19 is justified, sadly taking lives and causing respiratory problems or more for those showing signs of this pandemic in the making.

China, in particular being the location where the Covid-19 is alleged to have originated have closed thousands of theatres, cinema and stage until further notice. Representing one of the biggest box office turnovers in the world that is one of the biggest reasons to put 007 on hold. Any James Bond film is an event, not just a normal movie off the production line, they strive for greatness, they’re their own global genre up there with Star Wars and more recently Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings franchises, alongside to a lesser extent Fast and the Furious.

Luckily Australian cinemas have yet to close, including many other countries such as the US their doors remain open. Let’s hope people stay aware not to cough uncovered in auditoriums or foyers.

Even making movies right now can be hazardous to the actors and crew involved. Filming for Baz Luhrmann’s 2021 film, Elvis, came to a sudden halt on March 11, 2020 as Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were diagnosed with coronavirus in Australia. The two remain quarantined in a hospital.

Cinema edicate can be ordinary at the best of times outside of sneezing or coughing without covering. Talking, using phones, popcorn crunching or snoring in the vicinity have me switching seats. Also due to piracy prevention and classification, No Time to Die just couldn’t be released everywhere but China, so Universal pulled the plug on all of us pushing it to what I believe is the more profitable month on November. Hello possible Oscar nomination Daniel Craig, in supposedly his last turn as the super spy. Disney Pictures, considering it is a Chinese based tale, from all reports were close to pull release of new live action remake Mulan, but it is going ahead on silver screens March 28th.

However a Sony film, Peter Rabbit 2, just changed release dates suddenly, now gone from Easter 2020 to August avoiding potential box office virus affected slumps. Recent planned visits to Australia by Anna Kendrick to promote Trolls 2 and Miley Cyrus to perform were abandoned. I would not be surprised if further films on slates are cornered to shift to the back end of the year or wiped entirely going onto the streaming option, this can still be quite profitable for studios opposed to juggling. May I suggest a rewatch of a quality 2011 film I highly recommended at the time and more so now, that has all of a sudden been extremely sort after on Blu-Ray (selling out in stores) and breaking search engine records on streaming services; Contagion (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh.

An all star cast in a movable story around individuals suffering from an epidemic, prevention and how it originated, different of course to COVID-19 but brutally eye opening art imitating life to certain degree. For lesser shock value still focused around pandemic, see Outbreak (1995) interestingly a coughing scene inside a plane is all too familiar. As an obsessed movie fanatic who made it my career. I couldn’t imagine not attending ‘the pictures’ so fingers crossed on washed hands, our state of the art theatre’s stay open and the releases stay on flow.

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