The first indication that coronavirus would impact Hollywood came in early March, when we got word that the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, would be pushed back from its April release all the way to November. Since then, Disney has delayed the releases of Mulan, The New Mutants and Antlers, with release dates still unknown. A Quiet Place Part II (which has already premiered in New York) and Fast & Furious 9 have also been temporarily pulled.
The reason is obvious: Even as most American movie theaters have kept their doors cautiously open (not the case for China and Italy), moviegoers are hardly in the mood to buy tickets when health experts urge quarantine. Which means it’s a troubling time to be in the movie business. As The Hollywood Reporter notes, “Theater stocks for the major chains, like AMC, Imax and Regal owner Cineworld, have been hit hard amid a broader downturn for the market in recent weeks.” Meanwhile, more than a third of U.S. adults support a temporary shutdown of theaters.
The whole situation is bad news for high-quality recent releases like The Invisible Man and First Cow, which are already in theaters but likely to see their box office performances dwindle due to quarantines. On the festival side of things, the Tribeca Film Festival—scheduled to hit Manhattan next month—has also been postponed as the great hum of New York’s cultural life grinds to a half amid a state of emergency. Whether the Cannes Film Festival will take place remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the global film industry as a whole stands to lose billions of dollars from the coronavirus outbreak. On the streaming side of things, Netflix has just halted production of all scripted TV and film projects. It will likely be months before anyone can comprehend the full scale of damage.
Rumors that Daniel Radcliffe had tested positive for coronavirus proved false. On Wednesday night, however, the Internet flew into concern when Tom Hanks became the first celebrity to announce that he’d tested positive. Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, became ill while in Australia for pre-production of Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis Presley film. It’s a strange coincidence, perhaps, that Hanks already won an Oscar for portraying a man afflicted with a frightening virus during a national epidemic (see: 1993’s Philadelphia). Just as that film was the first major Hollywood release to address the AIDS crisis, Hanks could help lift the stigma on coronavirus testing by being the first celebrity to address his status.
But coronavirus isn’t AIDS, and the good news is that Hanks appears to be doing well while in quarantine. “We are taking it one-day-at-a-time,” he informed the world in an upbeat missive. Hanks will likely be the first of many celebrities to become ill, given how often famous people travel and interact with crowds. We’re praying for a full recovery.
There’s no theater without an audience, and this public health crisis has imperiled the very concept of an audience. On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would ban gatherings of more than 500 people in a desperate measure to slow the spread of the virus. This doesn’t just impact sporting events and concerts—it deals a stunning blow to New York City’s largest and most prestigious tourist industry, Broadway. (There are 41 Broadway theaters in the city, all of which have a capacity exceeding 500.)
By early afternoon, all Broadway performances had been canceled for an entire month, including the new musical Six, which was slated to celebrate its opening that evening. As the city’s storied Theater District flickers into a ghost town, other major Manhattan cultural institutions—The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall—also closed their doors. Even NBC’s late night shows are momentarily going dark.
Among members of the theater community, the Broadway closure prompted shock and sadness mingled with recognition that it’s the right choice:
And it's done: All of Broadway is going dark through April 12. Tony has waited 16 years for Caroline, or Change to come back to Broadway and tomorrow night was supposed to have been the first preview. Much love to the cast and team. It is GREAT. It's also not worth dying for. >
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) March 12, 2020
Absolutely devastated for Broadway fans, performers, crews, front of house, marketing, merch, concessions staff and so many more. The economic impact will be enormous.
— Alan Henry (@AlanHenry) March 12, 2020
Can you imagine how tasty all of the vocals are going to be on Broadway when we all finally return on April 13th after a month of ferocious vocal rest? The mixes will be CLEAR, the belts will be STRONG, and the riffs CLEAN, henney!
— Benjamin Rauhala (@brauhala) March 12, 2020