The coronavirus has hit the entire world pretty hard> And one corner of societythat’s been deeply impacted is the entertainment industry. Even as the public seems to be seeking out more entertainment options, the folks who create them are suffering mightily.
We obviously haven’t been doing our usual Monday box-office wrap-up in this space for the last couple of weeks, and that’s because, according to Newsweek, more than 80% of the country’s 6,000 theaters have closed down. Shares for the major movie theater chains have plummeted: Cinemark USA shares, for instance, are down around 70%, according to Newsweek. Another major chain, AMC, may not survive the downturn, experts say. Some experts suggest the industry as a whole could lose $10 billion.
And of all the entertainment big dogs hurt by the virus, it’s a mouse that may suffer the most.
Disney has become the world’s biggest blockbuster factory. Last year, it earned a record $11.1 billion globally from its movies alone, and it was responsible for seven of 2019’s eight highest-grossing flicks. Disney hoped that Onward would be the start of another banner year—but it was released just as concerns about the coronavirus were growing. It’s earned just $61.6 million in theaters and is already out on VOD, with its launch on Disney+ scheduled for this Friday. Hard to break box-office records when no one’s going to the box office.
Sure, you’d think that Disney+ subscriptions would be going through the roof right now (as would be those of most streaming services). But Disney’s theme parks around the world—a cornerstone of the Disney entertainment empire—are shut down and could be closed through June, some say. Analysts believe that Disney could lose $3.4 billion from its theme-park division alone. With a recession in the offing and with people perhaps initially reluctant to rub elbows with strangers even in a post-coronavirus world, you’re talking some pretty serious stress for the Happiest Places on Earth.
“Theaters and theme parks are most vulnerable,” Tuna Amobi, an industry analyst at financial advisory firm CFRA told Newsweek. “The impact will be extremely significant. The company with the biggest exposure to China is Disney because of its parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai.”
We all know that the releases of plenty of movies have been postponed, some indefinitely. But production of movies and television shows—stuff we wouldn’t see until late this year, 2021 or later—has ground to a halt as well. More than 100 television shows have stopped making new episodes, in fact.
Obviously, the whole crisis is a bit unprecedented, but that’s particularly the case for the entertainment industry. Moviedom’s Golden Age took place during the teeth of the Great Depression. When soldiers and sailors went off to World War II in the 1940s, Hollywood was still at work, churning out classics like Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life. The Cold War was a boon for science fiction. In the wake of 9/11, America eased its fears with fantasies franchises such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
But it’s not as if a nervous America is forgoing movies altogether. We’re still watching plenty of them—online. And here at Plugged In, we’ll try to keep you as in the loop as we can with what’s new, what’s popular and what you can watch with your families.
But personally, I can’t wait to start serving up puns in our weekly box-office wrap again.