The impact of COVID-19 on the global cinema business (updates as at 20/3/20).

According to US trade magazine Deadline, while several countries are in cinema shutdown, ten countries have partial closures (Bosnia/Herzegovina, Brazil, Columbia, Czech Republic, Japan, Serbia, South Korea, UK, Ukraine, and Vietnam) and a further nine countries are using capacity limitations as a social distancing measure (Australia, Croatia, Iceland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, and Slovenia). 

In Singapore, exhibitors Golden Village, Shaw Theatres, Cathay Cineplexes and The Projector are remaining open. Golden Village and Shaw Theatres have compulsory seat gaps between customers.

The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) released a statement on 20th March, urging the sector to stick together. UNIC believes that the vast majority of titles will be released in cinemas as opposed to online and urges distributors not to move to digital and on-demand while cinemas are closed. UNIC ask their members to speak to national governments in search of support.

On Thursday, the European Commission approved the Temporary Framework for state aid. This allows direct grants, state-guaranteed loans and other forms of aid for companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The equivalent trade body in the USA, NATO, has also unsurprisingly taken a tough stance on releasing films on-demand or in digital format at the same time as cinemas, or before if cinemas are closed.

In the UK, Cineworld has begun to react by letting go some staff within Cineworld and subsidiary Picturehouse. The exhibitor has informed some UK staff that they will no longer be allocating shifts to them but hopes to be able to do so in the future.

In Belgium, a group of independent distributors have joined up with five on-demand services to offer films that would have had a theatrical release to the public via digital instead of the cinema. The films are offered at EUR7.99 per title and are focusing on those films that were planned for the cinemas and were already on the listings websites. The initiative will end as soon as cinemas re-open.

Sony Pictures is to release Vin Diesel title Bloodshot into on-demand platforms 11 days after its theatrical release. The studio has made it clear this an exceptional decision and it fully supports the theatrical window.

Warner has brought forward the digital release dates of Birds of Prey and The Gentleman, while Disney has added Onward to that list in addition to Frozen 2. 

Indie title Dosed from distributors Abramorama/Mangurama is to interrupt its theatrical run, to move to a global digital release, with the intention of going back to cinemas when possible. The title has been released in US, Australia, UK and some European territories. Human Capital, a film from Vertical entertainment, has also decided to postpone its theatrical release with a ‘VOD and digital’-only release starting on 20th March. Conversely, Grizzlies (Elevation Pictures) has chosen not to move to digital straight away, simply postpone the theatrical release until a later date. There are now many films being postponed as cinemas are effectively closed in the USA and elsewhere.

Disney has chosen not to report box office numbers for the foreseeable future.

On the festival front, Cannes has finally decided to postpone the annual Film Festival having held out up to now.