As the coronavirus continues to scuttle release dates and halt TV and film productions, and with no end in sight, Hollywood is bracing for a massive economic hit that could easily surpass $20 billion — and that’s if the spread of the virus can be curbed by global efforts such as school closings, quarantines, and social distancing. But should COVID-19 continue at its current pace, well, “all bets are off.”
In a rundown on the daunting costs facing studios, THR reports that moving release dates almost instantly comes with a price tag in the 8-digits:
MGM pushed the upcoming James Bond outing No Time to Die to November, a move that will likely cost $30 million to $50 million considering that ad buys are made in advance and make-goods are not a given as several studios are in the same boat, having pulled ads at the last minute. A Quiet Place II’s abrupt cancellation eight days before release will cost Paramount some $30 million (unlike with Mulan, A Quiet Place II director John Krasinski and the producers were involved in the decision-making process to hold off on releasing the film until the global pandemic has subsided).
One of the major costs for blockbusters like Furious 9 are highly-expensive Super Bowl spots, which are effective for pushing tickets close to a film’s release but will have little effect when those films are looking at a year-long delay. But that’s just movies that were on their way to the cineplex. Production shutdowns are another can of worms that are costing studios huge sums by the day.
Disney announced that it will “pause” a number of productions for “a short time,” including Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is shooting in Australia, and the live-action Little Mermaid film in London. Warner Bros. halted preproduction on its Elvis Presley biopic — also slated to shoot in Australia — after star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19. Sources say a production shutdown on films like Shang-Chi and Little Mermaid would set back Disney about $300,000-$350,000 a day. “It’s not like you can stop on a dime,” says one producer. “You need to keep department heads going and maybe a level down from there through the hiatus.”
Granted, these films are insured, but according to one attorney, those protections are limited. And here’s the real kicker: A lot of these plans have exclusions for communicable diseases. While the coronavirus certainly falls under that category, we wouldn’t be surprised if it being declared a pandemic results in several lawsuits down the road as studios attempt to recoup astronomical losses.