We’re several weeks into coronavirus (COVID-19) being declared a pandemic and having wide-reaching ramifications on the entertainment industry across the globe. But while China, which has managed to curb the virus’ spread, is starting to return to normal life and slowly open its movie theaters, the U.K. and the U.S. movie and TV industries are still getting hit hard.
China to Re-Release ‘Avatar’ and the ‘Avengers’ Franchise to Boost Movie Theaters
China opened its movie theaters for the first time in the months since the country locked down its businesses to spread the curb of coronavirus, but business was slow-going in the box office’s first weekend. To boost its local film industry, China is turning to Earth’s mightiest heroes — and a couple blue aliens. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chinese theaters plan to hold repertory screenings of Marvel’s Avengers movies and past Hollywood blockbusters like James Cameron’s Avatar and Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Instersteller in an attempt to bring more audiences to theaters. All four Avengers movies are set to be rereleased in the coming days and weeks, with the other blockbusters soon to follow.
The blockbusters haven’t yet received official re-release dates, but THR reports that they will be made available to theaters “whenever the DCPs reach the cinemas.” The theatrical re-releases follow reports that Warner Bros. would help revive China’s box office with repertory screenings of Harry Potter.
U.K. Studios Deliberate Over Whether to Close
Although Hollywood has all but shut down, movie studios in the U.K. are still keeping their lights on, despite uncertainty on government directives. Variety reports that studios are deliberating whether they should shut down following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s nationwide address Monday night that banned gatherings of more than two people and strictly advised Britons to “stay home.”
U.K. studios like Elstree, Shepperton, Pinewood (where many Disney-produced films are shot), and Warner Bros.’ Leavesden are reportedly still operational, though with minimal staff on the ground. This despite the majority of Hollywood productions shutting down in recent weeks in response to the coronavirus crisis. Most spaces have stayed open, with Pinewood releasing a statement as recently as March 19 noting it is “enabling productions to continue to film and record on site.”
Several studios in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island have closed, including Scotland’s Wardpark Studios, Wales’s Bay Studios Swansea, Bad Wolf Studios, and Northern Ireland’s Titanic Studios, the former production base for Game of Thrones. But major studios in the U.K. are still uncertain about the extent of the government’s lockdown measures, which will be re-evaulated in 3 weeks. However, a few are revising their measures in the wake of the government’s directives.
Animated Series Keep Productions Going
Hollywood may be out of commission for the time being, but the animation industry is still going strong, with many ongoing animated shows forging ahead despite coronavirus-imposed quarantines.
Series including The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Duncanville, Netflix’s Hoops and Apple’s Central Park are all still in production and churning out episodes thanks to the unique production schedule and workflow used for animated shows, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Many episodes take at least a year to come together, with the scripting, physical animation, voiceover, color, sound mixing, and various other technical aspects required to be completed before it ever hits the air. But technology has made it possible for many of those aspects to be done from home, or through sharing programs.
Animated shows produced by the Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV — including The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers and Duncanville — are using a program called Toon Boom (which has waived its license fee for artists for a month) to share storyboards. Netflix’s Big Mouth is holding virtual table reads. Family Guy‘s composer is attempting to do a remote score by having musicians play from home. Bento Box, the Fox-owned animation house behind Bob’s Burgers, are having in-house animators use a program called Harmony to handle retakes or new animation. And of course, there’s the ever-popular Zoom, the video conferencing apps that productions are using to edit scripts or even record voiceover sessions, like Fox’s Bless the Harts.
“Production hasn’t skipped a day or lost a beat,” The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean told THR. “We intend to do the 22 shows we were contracted to do…. There’s been no change in how we do things.”
‘Contagion’ Infection Disease Consultant Tests Positive For COVID-19
In a case of fiction mirroring real life, Dr. Ian Lipkin, an infectious disease expert who consulted on Steven Soderbergh‘s increasingly prescient 2011 film Contagion, tested positive for COVID-19. In an interview with Fox Business, Lipkin, who works as the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, revealed that he had tested positive for the virus and warned the viewers about the threat of the pandemic.
“This has become very personal for me too, because I have covid as of yesterday, and it is miserable.”
The news strikes an unfortunately familiar note, as a plot line in Contagion showed Kate Winslet’s Epidemic Intelligence Service scientist, who is at the frontlines of identifying and researching the fictional virus in the film, ultimately falling victim to the disease. The same happened in reality to the Chinese doctor, Li Wenliang, who initially blew the whistle on coronavirus and died a few weeks later.