Bond & beyond: Coronavirus hits Hollywood

Peter Lennon asks what effect the coronavirus may have on the film industry

Peter Lennon
16th March 2020
With over 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, many sectors of life are slowly, but surely, being affected. Following the closure of cinemas in China and other contained areas of the globe, specifically Italy, film studios are beginning to get cold feet with the release of their new films.

This has come to pass with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) delaying the release of the hotly anticipated James Bond flick – No Time to Die (2020) – by seven months. Originally scheduled for an April 2020 release, star Daniel Craig’s franchise finale will now be hitting theatres on 12th November 2020 in the United Kingdom, and on 25th November internationally.

The move was made in an attempt to curb the financial withdraw that the film may have experienced due to a combination of Government intervention in the operation of cinemas, as well as a general fear and hesitation of mainstream audiences gathering in public spaces. The Hollywood Reporter has already estimated a loss of $30-50 million over the advertising that has already been purchase. However, their predicted global loss “would have exceeded $300 million had the film stayed in its April slot.”

MGM and Universal have had to ensure the maximisation of profits – not just out of good business sense – but out of fear of losing the Eon-produced James Bond series, which has served the film studio as a sturdy tentpole franchise since its conception.

While No Time to Die has been the only film to delay its release this year due to the coronavirus (as of this writing), other studios may begin to feel the pressure of the growing Global epidemic. Disney in particular has a large stake in the success of upcoming live-action remake Mulan (2020).

The newest addition to the live-action remake catalogue, Mulan has already been infected by an air of controversy, with the hiring of a white director (Niki Caro) for a film based on Chinese folklore (The Ballad of Mulan) and titular star Liu Yifei resharing an image that supported the Hong Kong police during the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests.

Despite this, the film has consistently maintained mainstream interest on social platforms YouTube and Twitter. At the moment, Mulan is currently projected to open with an $80-90 million haul in its opening weekend in North America, which would make it the biggest opening of 2020 thus far.

There are worries that the much anticipated Marvel movie The Eternals November release will be delayed. Image:IMDB

That being said, contemporary female-led action film Birds of Prey (2020) and Disney’s The Call of the Wild opened below their respective box office projections, both of which are set to lose money with The Call of the Wild already being labelled the biggest flop of 2020.

Mulan’s North American projections can therefore be assumed to be ambitious. Even if it the film does achieves these projections it would have a steep hill to climb in order to break-even, already boasting a $200 million production budget and an intense marketing campaign that is likely to cost almost as much.

If North America fails to deliver, the Chinese market, which the film was co-produced and designed for, will be unable to salvage the crash as it has done for other action-flicks this past decade. Mulan has already been delayed in most regions of China.

If Disney blinks and delays Mulan, there would be a lot of potential for a grander domino-effect. For instance, Black Widow (2020) could be pushed out of its May release, which could delay The Eternals (2020) November release. Though, No Time to Die’s new November release could already be playing havoc with Marvel’s The Eternals.

Of course, there is always the chance that the film industry will proceed smoothly, but only time will tell if the coronavirus lets it.

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AUTHOR: Peter Lennon
English Literature undergraduate. Although I primarily write for the Courier's Film section, I do love helping out in the Televsion and Gaming sections as well. I also organise and host livestreams/radio shows as FilmSoc's inaugural Head of Radio. Twitter: @PeterLennon79

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