China has already closed some 70,000 cinemas because of the Covid-19 coronavirus, and as the strain travels to other countries, the global film industry is bracing for massive losses that could total over $5 billion.
Via The Hollywood Reporter, the worldwide box office reached record highs in 2019, and there was some hope that 2020 would be even better. Now, that New Year’s optimism has given way to panic. Chinese ticket sales from Jan. 24 to Feb. 23 this year were a paltry $4.2 million, compared to $1.76 billion over the same period in 2019. Fears about the virus have stopped the filming of Mission Impossible 7 in Italy, and those kinds of production delays will become more common (and expensive) if the outbreak continues to spread.
Studios plan their budgets around overseas markets, and right now those markets are in turmoil. A generic superhero blockbuster might cost a quarter of a billion dollars, with the idea of breaking even in the United State and turning a profit in distant box offices such as China, Japan, and Europe. Right now China is closed for business, ticket sales in Japan have already slowed 10-15%, and with the epidemic worsening in Italy, other European countries could be next. If Covid-19 starts shuttering American movie theaters, then the financial losses would be dire, to say nothing of the human toll.
But there’s also a chance that these loss projections will turn out to be on the high end. China’s cases of Covid-19 have finally started declining, and if easing travel restrictions doesn’t lead to another spike in diagnoses, Chinese cineplexes could reopen in months, if not weeks. Additionally, a Covid-19 pandemic isn’t guaranteed. According to the World Health Organization, containment is still possible, although the prudent thing to do is still prepare for the worst.
If you want to prep yourself and prevent the spread of the disease, you can start by shaving off your hipster beard. Otherwise take a few normal precautions, most especially washing your hands. Many Americans have just stopped drinking Corona beer, but that’s not going to help.
Film isn’t the only industry being affected. Outbreaks of Covid-19 has led to musical superstars like BTS and Green Day cancelling legs of their Asian tours.