Perhaps no industry had to change as quickly – or as widely – by the rapid spread of Covid-19 as the movie industry.
Analysts estimate the pandemic has already cost the global box office as much as $5 billion, mainly because of theatre closures in China (the world’s second-biggest movie market, after the US), also in Italy, UK, Japan, South Korea, and France. Movie distributors across the globe came to halt as the box office recorded zero revenue for the first time in history. Theatre attendance is down significantly from the same period last year. Hollywood studios had to postpone the releases of blockbuster movies and drastically alter production schedules around the world, leaving movie-bluffs wondering what comes next.
The movie industry has changed particularly after the outbreak because both the production and the consumption of its output require a large number of people to huddle together in small spaces. The movie industry is also a truly global industry: Studios and production companies have offices and film sets in several countries, and they often require employees to frequently travel between them. Why not hire locales, you may wonder? Take a look at the end credits for most major films to observe just how many locales a single two-hour film relies on in order to reach theater screens.
For instance, No Time to Die, the upcoming James Bond movie which got delayed until November, has done production in the UK, Italy, Jamaica, and Norway. Thousands of people from all over the world worked on this movie. And they did so in extremely close situations. Unlike many workplaces, you can’t work from home when working on a movie shoot. Makeup artists can’t do their jobs via zoom.
Although some film sets are now establishing SOPs like hairstylists only touch performers with gloves and masks on. Still, if one main actor gets sick, it can delay the entire production schedule, resulting in chaos.
The theaters’ loss has become streaming’s gain:
On the other hand, studios and theatre chains have been battling over shortening the window for years: doing so would enable studios to tap into awareness from the theatrical release as well as the value of theatrical marketing dollars to increase downloads or rentals. Even a few months before, the major theatre chains were so insistent on a three-month window to protect ticket sales, that they refused a one-month window to show Netflix’s original ‘The Irishman’. But now after the pandemic situation, the theatres have zero negotiating leverage, studios are making unrivaled moves to bring their films to audiences.