As the coronavirus continues to spread, the box office has taken a massive hit. China is the second-largest moviegoing market in the world. While public health and safety is the primary concern right now, the effect the disease is having on business and the global economy cannot be understated. Case in point, it's estimated that the box office losses in China alone over the past couple of months have exceeded $200 million, with no end in sight.
The COVID-19 virus first emerged in Wuhan, China two months ago. During that time, according to a new report, it's estimated that $214 million in box office losses have piled up in the country. Movie theaters in China have almost entirely been shut down to help contain the outbreak as a larger strategy implemented by the government to limit mass public gatherings. As a result, box office receipts for January and February have totaled just $31.3 million. Chen Bei, deputy secretary general of the Beijing municipal government, had this to say.
"Judging from the current situation, the film industry is not equipped to resume business yet, and we have not approved industry's demands to resume business as of now."
Big Hollywood releases have already felt the effects. Dolittle, 1917, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women and, more recently, Sonic the Hedgehog, have had to delay releases in China due to the outbreak. Studios have increasingly relied on box office dollars from Chinese audiences in recent years to help establish hits, or bail out potential flops. Things will continue to get dicey as a string of major releases such as A Quiet Place: Part II, Mulan, No Time to Die and Black Widow, amongst many others, prep for release in the next couple of months.
Beijing Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, and the Beijing Municipal Film Bureau have released strict guidelines for theaters that wish to reopen, or for film crews that wish to operate. Theaters must get approval from authorities and they will face increased measures to avoid risk, such as thorough auditorium disinfection and selling tickets in alternate rows, if they're allowed to reopen at all. Film crews of 50 people or less are also able to begin filming in Beijing, but under strict conditions. Everyone must wear masks and body temperatures cannot exceed 37.3 degrees celsius, for example.
Recently, Mission: Impossible 7 had to delay filming in Italy due to coronavirus containment measures, and other productions are facing similar challenges. That means future releases could ultimately be affected by the virus as well, depending on how much more severe the situation becomes. To date, nearly 90,000 cases have been reported in at least 60 countries around the globe, with the death toll recently climbing past 3,000. The World Health Organization has not yet ruled the outbreak as a pandemic, but such a declaration has not been ruled out either. This news comes to us via Variety.