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Inside Beat

How the film industry is being affected by coronavirus

Although many may think that it's only the big names that are being hurt in Hollywood by coronavirus, others in the industry, like technicians and gaffers, are jobless because of the crisis.   – Photo by Unsplash

You’ve heard it a million times — the cliche comparison between the current global pandemic and movies like “Outbreak” and “Contagion.” But while these comparisons are getting old, I can’t help but to hope there’s a Dr. Daniels somewhere out there finding the serum to save us from this mess. 

Movies, like “Outbreak,” are integral to pop culture. They entertain while commenting on humanity, and maybe even years later, they help to explain the present world. But as we are seeing, global pandemics don’t care how important an industry is — it will still wreak havoc on it. In just weeks, the film industry has laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, postponed movies, canceled projects and closed theaters. 

We spoke with Albert Nigrin, a cinema studies professor, to hear his thoughts about coronavirus disease's (COVID-19) affect on the film industry. 

“Will we lose some theaters and some production companies and some projects? Absolutely. I think that's what happens whenever you have this major disaster, but I think it's a pendulum swing,” says Nigrin. 

The film industry has its ups and downs, but Nigrin said that while the industry is going to take a hit, “it will rebound, it's just a matter of how and when.”

Furthermore, we might not think the losses felt by Hollywood are that important compared to industries like oil or food and hospitality. Additionally, you might roll your eyes at the thought of feeling bad for millionaires producers, directors and actors, but this is not the complete picture. 

Nigrin said, “I don't think that the fat cats in the industry are going to be affected that much. I worry more about the worker, the person that's the gaffer or technician. Those are the people that will be suffering the most because they don't have the most money.” 

In a statement put out by Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said “Almost all television and film production has now ceased globally — leaving hundreds of thousands of crew and cast without jobs.These include electricians, carpenters and drivers, many of whom are paid hourly wages and work on a project-to-project basis.”

But among the hourly paid workers laid off are film festivals that will be affected due to cancellations or postponements. These festivals are not only important for film, but they are also lucrative. Festivals like South By Southwest is a “financial powerhouse” for the city of Austin, Texas, according to Vox. 

Nigrin said that due to these cancellations in the spring, “there's going to be a hell of a lot of things to do in the fall, so there's going to be a glut of programming and that will also be difficult because that means that there’s less people to go to these events,” says Nigrin. “There’s a real ripple effect to this and I don’t think that we’ll really get out of it until next year."  

Additionally, movies like "Wonder Woman 1984" and "Mulan," which were set to release in theaters soon, have been delayed after the closing of theaters globally. Being that China contributes greatly to global box office sales, this is a huge blow.

It’s been announced that movies will now premiere digitally for the price of $19.99, but just how many people will pay to watch a new release?

Nigrin said during a time where people are watching their money, he’s not sure how this will pan out. He also said that he’s “just not sure how many people would pay to see 'The Hunt.'” 

But Nigrin said after the 2008 recession, “it did kind of come back, the box office sales have grown because ticket prices have gone up.”

The movie theatre experience is targeted to teenagers and people in their early twenties, but this is a demographic that is downloading more and more, Nigrin said.  

Nigrin said, “They're going to look for a way to make money and one of the things that they've been bucking is to bypass the movie theatre. For a long long time they really wanted to eliminate the little man. They wanted to beam directly into the home and this is a way that they may get what they always wanted which is to eliminate the movie theatre. 

He said, “bowling alleys are still around, but there are other things that have gone by the waist side as we evolve as a society. So, are movie theaters next? Maybe, I don't know.”

Nigrin said, “In some ways it's all about survival. Will the industry survive? Yes, but it will never be the same. I think it is dire to a certain extent, but we will only know how dire it was in two years.”

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