Just like sports, social gatherings, schools, and church services, the entertainment business is taking a hit in light of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Looking at the upcoming release calendar for motion pictures, it’s fairly bleak. James Bond’s “No Time To Die” - slated for an April 10th bow over Easter weekend - was the first to pull the trigger and was pushed to November 2020. It makes sense considering the last two Bond pictures made a sizable chunk of their grosses overseas, and you can’t really do that if theaters around the globe are on total lockdown. It’s unprecedented to push a major release weeks before its debut, especially as marketing had already spent about 70% of its budget: Daniel Craig (the star of “No Time To Die”) still hosted SNL last week in what was supposed to be a bid to plug his film, and promotions with car companies and Rolax watches are still rolling out (not to mention a hefty Super Bowl TV spot that cost $5 million) that were too far into their campaigns to suspend operations.
It wasn’t long before “A Quiet Place Part II” - the sequel to 2018’s global smash - jumped ship and was shelved indefinitely from its original March 20th bow, with Paramount Pictures also canning its romantic comedy “The Lovebirds” away from its April 3rd release date, creating a domino effect across the entertainment sector. It wasn’t long before Universal studios’ “Fast and Furious 9” - a sequel in their most lucrative franchise - decided they weren’t going to risk their $200 million picture and have now stuck “F9” on the calendar for April 2021, almost a full year from its original slot. And if those hits weren’t enough, Disney, in an eleventh hour decision, took its live-action tentpole “Mulan” off the schedule (originally set to debut on March 27th) along with Fox releases “The New Mutants” (which, ironically, has been delayed five times in the wake of the Fox-Disney merger) and the horror flick “Antlers.” Sony pictures also moved “Peter Rabbit 2” from Easter to the first weekend of August.
This leaves theaters with quite possibly the biggest drought in cinema going history as the next biggest release is “Trolls: World Tour” which bumped up to April 10th from April 17th an effort to capitalize on James Bond’s vacancy. That is, if the film still keeps that release date. All eyes are on Marvel’s big summer kickoff “Black Widow” (out May 1st) as to whether there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Disney says it's staying put, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the film moves to November and takes the slot of another Marvel picture - “The Eternals” - and weathers the storm.
If that happens, all bets are off.
As of now, theaters across the country are doing their part to combat the virus: big chains AMC and Regal have announced they’ll be reducing capacity by 50% in all its auditoriums and enforcing strict cleaning schedules. MJR Digital Cinemas 10 is utilizing those same practices with no signs of shutting down (though, with the lack of content, you wonder how they’ll stay afloat? Are people going to see “Onward” and “The Call of the Wild” over and over again for weeks?) Considering this past weekend's box office had the worst showing since September 2000, the future doesn’t look bright (even the weekend after 9/11 had higher grosses). Not to mention thousands of productions on TV shows and movies across the globe have shut down, so who's to say movies originally slated for 2021 will meet their deadlines?
The Clinton Theater owners Frank Allison and Karie Dortson saw this coming: “We recently concluded March 13th was a good time to close. We are now relieved to see that schools, colleges, and universities have come to the same conclusion” they said in a statement obtained for this article. They also understand the gravity of this pandemic and how they need to protect those most susceptible: “our ‘regulars’ are our treasures, and the oldest of them are the shiniest gems. We must act now to protect them.” When asked about whether or not they’ll be open in the next couple weeks to serve Clinton patrons they say “We will return when we think it is safe” and suggested customers keep checking on their website or Facebook pages for updates.
The Clinton Theater has the luxury of closing its doors when they want too, others aren’t so lucky. I’ve heard from reliable sources chain theaters might start offering discount tickets every day for older films and that studios might give movie houses percentage breaks to ride the wave. (Disney offered a slew of older pictures at a sizable discount, which is unusual for the house of mouse).
At least we have streaming services to keep us occupied while stuck in purgatory: If you don’t already have Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Prime Video, now might be the time. Disney took it upon themselves to drop the animated hit “Frozen II” on Disney+ three months ahead of schedule to help families during this difficult time and Netflix has added a boatload of content to fulfill your binging desires. With that in mind, dear reader, I’ve assembled a list of films and tv series you might want to consider adding to your watchlist. Some of them you probably have seen and others you haven’t.
Just wash your hands first and we will get through this together.
*Since this article was written, an executive order was passed in Michigan stating all movie theaters will shut their doors until further notice.
Armageddon (HBO Now)
Gangs of New York (HBO)
The Rainmaker (Netflix or Amazon Prime)
The Lincoln Lawyer (Prime)
Super 8 (Prime or Hulu)
The Big Sick (Prime)
Inside Out (Disney+)
Dolomite Is My Name (Netflix)
Space Jam (Netflix)
Marriage Story (Netflix)
The Invitation (Netflix)
The Other Guys (Netflix)
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (Netflix)
A Series Of Unfortunate Events (2003) (Netflix)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (Netflix)
Lady Bird (Prime)
Mission: Impossible - Fallout (Prime)
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (HBO)
The Breakfast Club (Starz)
Fight Club (HBO)
Good Will Hunting (Hulu)
Sorry To Bother You (Hulu)
End of Watch (Netflix)
Breaking Bad (Netflix)
Flint Town (Netflix)
The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
The Simpsons (Disney+)
The Outsider (HBO)
Love, Death, and Robots (Netflix)