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It’s a wrap!

Globally, the film industry is at a standstill amid the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s how it has been affected by the global pandemic

FILMMAKING AND filmgoing – what do these two have in common? Both require people gathering in large groups, that too at close quarters. And that is what has always made this art form an enriching experience — fostering community bonding since the days of silent, black and white films. But unfortunately, this group dynamics has now become the reason why the industry is at a standstill.

From film shoots coming to a halt midway, to film festivals and releases of blockbusters being cancelled – the rapid spread of Coronavirus has affected the global film industry in a massive way.

PRODUCTION PAUSED

To maintain safety protocols, the entertainment industry has stopped production. For instance, Universal Studios Hollywood has closed their doors temporarily. Disney TV Studios had also shut down 16 of its pilots.

Meanwhile, Apple has stopped all active filming on projects from outside studios. Warner Bros. Television Group has also suspended their production on some of their 70+ series and pilots currently on the floor or about to begin.

Not only big studios, but even streaming platforms have also taken this step amid the crisis. Netflix shut down production of all its original scripted films and TV shows in the US and Canada for the next two weeks.

In India, all filmmaking and production bodies have taken a unanimous decision to stop filming for all kinds of entertainment formats temporarily. Film bodies in India including Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE), Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) and Producers Guild of India have decided to put a hold on shootings of films, TV shows and web series from March 19 to 31.

Many film shoots have been cancelled as well. For instance, Shahid Kapoor’s film Jersey – whose shooting was going on in Chandigarh – had been called off. The same thing happened with Chiranjeevi’s film Acharya and Anshuman Jha’s directorial debut Lord Curzon Ki Haveli. Its UK schedule was scheduled to begin from March 16-21. These are just many of the few examples!

NO RELEASE

“I don’t just want a digital release,” said Jasmine Batchelor, the star of The Surrogate (a drama about an egg-donor that was set to debut at the South by South West Film Festival – which was cancelled.

“There’s a reason that Netflix and Apple TV and HBO Max have in-person premieres. They want people to be there, connecting to one another. I would miss the community of being surrounded by other artists and sharing our reactions,” she added.

Release of several high-profile blockbuster films have been taken off the calendar. James Bond franchise’s ‘No Time to Die’ is one of them. The release of Mulan, Disney’s big budget film, has been delayed (was scheduled to release on March 27). Same with films like New Mutants, Antlers, Universal’s Fast and Furious 9 (has been delayed by  a year), A Quiet Place II, Peter Rabbit 2, to name a few.

The Indian film industry is in the same predicament. Films like Sooryavanshi (initial release date: March 24), Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar (initial release date: March 20) and Sir (initial release date: March 20) are a few of the unfortunate ones.

Showing concern about how the pandemic is affecting Bollywood, Bollywood film producer Siddharth P Malhotra said: “These are testing times for all of us. Right now, we must focus on keeping ourselves and everyone around us safe.” Malhotra delivered hits like Rani Mukherjee starrer Hichki. “We must take all precautions that WHO has advised, and think of ourselves as a community and not individuals. I am praying for all those affected to recover fast.”

BINGE BOOM

Since movie theatres have been closed in many parts of the world, streaming services are the only source of entertainment. And this, as many film critics and analysts believe, might be a boon to the business of streaming.

But will filmmakers consider releasing their works on these OTT platforms? That might be debatable, as many would rather choose postponing their release, rather than opting for streaming. But many new platforms are coming up, probably hoping that audiences will look for more content online while at home amid the outbreak.

For instance, NBC Universal is preparing for the launch of its streaming platform ‘Peacock’. Warner Bros. is making arrangements for the debut of HBO Max in May and Disney is using Disney+ as a launchpad for smaller, lower-budget films that are not cut out for theatrical release.

Many debate whether this is the ‘best time’ for the streaming giant Netflix. During the end of February, ‘Variety’ reported: “Amid fears over a global economic slowdown from the widening coronavirus outbreak, companies like Netflix that provide in-home services are best positioned to withstand the storm or even see upside from the crisis.” It noted that while global stock markets plummeted, Netflix’s share price had actually risen 0.8%. But soon after, Netflix’s share fell by 6%. Other streaming services were also affected badly because they also have been postponing productions.

One film analyst told a news website, ‘The economic hardship created by the pandemic could have some consumers reconsidering the service.  The coronavirus has spurred streaming services, including Netflix, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, to postpone productions. High-profile originals like Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for Disney Plus and The Morning Show for Apple are on hold, and Netflix has shut down all film and TV production in the US and Canada.’

WHAT’S NEXT?

Recently, multiplex chain PVR cinemas announced that all their cinema halls in Kerala, New Delhi and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir will remain shut till March 31.  Such is the case in many places in the world. Given the way the pandemic has been spreading, a sense of uncertainty prevails in the entertainment industry.

“While it is extremely sad that so many people are suffering from this pandemic, it is important to remain calm and think rationally. We have to ensure, as a country, that we take all necessary precautions so it can be controlled. Panic is never the solution, being cautious is. Remember, this too shall pass,” says veteran Bollywood film producer Anand Pandit. He is currently preparing for two of his big releases – Chehre which will star Amitabh Bachchan and The Big Bull starring Abhishek Bachchan.