“I have never seen anything where this many films are going to be affected all at once,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations.
“There’s isolated incidents or tragedies that happen, that might affect a certain film. But this really does infect all the industry from top to bottom.”
Industry estimates put the financial loss from Asian theaters already shuttered this year around $2 billion.
Major Hollywood titles including Mulan, Disney’s China-set live-action blockbuster, have been placed on hold in China.
The last-minute global delay of 007 adventure No Time To Die, including its US and European releases, highlights the borderless impact of the virus. For now, US theater attendances are holding steady despite fears of spreading infection, and Mulan remains penned in for launch this month in North America.
But new coronavirus outbreaks in California and New York, and multiple deaths in Washington state, could impact receipts.
“We’ll see a little bit of downturn this week — by the time Mulan comes out, if this breaks as big as it did in China, it’s going to change the entire landscape,” said Bock Meanwhile, massive buyers including Netflix, Amazon and Apple have pulled out of the SXSW festival in Texas, an important marketplace for movies.
The impact will not be restricted to major studios. Stephen Nemeth, who produced Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) starring Jonny Depp, has another Hunter S. Thompson-themed film set to make its world premiere at the Austin festival.
“We are forging ahead,” he said. “We have a 1,100 seat theater… that’s a lot of seats to fill if there’s only 25 percent capacity at the festival.”