COVID-19’s Hard Hits to the Film Industry

Aynur Rauf

If you are anything like me, you were probably thinking about upcoming movie releases as soon as the 92nd Academy Awards finished airing. I was ecstatic to read about critics’ reactions to the premieres at film festivals and review them for myself. When COVID-19 began to grow more serious than I anticipated, I completely forgot about my excitement out of panic. Since self-isolation, I have started to think about the outcome of the pandemic on major film releases, productions, festivals and the Academy Awards. 

The minute economies began to shut down in the United States and surrounding countries, there was no question that all movie production had to stop as soon as possible. Many future films that aren’t even scheduled to release in 2020, such as “The Matrix 4,” “Samaritan” and “Fantastic Beasts 3,” terminated all production and estimated release dates indefinitely. More importantly, highly anticipated films that were scheduled to release as early as March of this year were postponed to dates as far as 2021 and some have not even announced new release dates at all. However, films with an original release set to the fall have their premiere dates untouched by production companies. 

  1. “A Quiet Place Part II” (John Krasinski): Original release date of March 20 postponed to Sept. 4. 
  2. “No Time to Die” (Cary Joji Fukunaga): Original release date of April 10 postponed to Nov. 25th. 
  3. “Fast and Furious 9” (Justin Lin): Original release date of May 22 postponed to April 2 2021. 
  4. “Mulan” (Niki Caro): Original release date of March 27 postponed to July 24. 
  5. “Minions: The Rise of Gru” (Kyle Balda): Original release date of July 3 postponed to July 2 2021.
  6. “Wonder Woman 1984” (Patty Jenkins): Original release date of June 5 postponed to Aug. 14.
  7. “Candyman” (Jordan Peele): Original release date of June 12 postponed to Sept. 25.
  8. “The French Dispatch” (Wes Anderson): Original release date of July 24 postponed to Oct. 16.
  9. All Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films being released from 2020-22 have been postponed: 
  10. “Black Widow” (Cate Shortland): Original release date of May 1 postponed to Nov.
    1. “The Eternals” (Chloé Zhao): Original release date of Nov 6. postponed to Feb. 12 2021.
    2. “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” (Destin Daniel Cretton): Original release date of Feb. 12 2021 (Chinese New Year) postponed to May 7 2021.
    3. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Sam Raimi): Original release date of May 7 2021 postponed to Nov. 5 2021. 
    4. “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Taika Watiti): Original release date of Nov. 5 2020 postponed to Feb. 28 2021.
    5. “Black Panther II” (Ryan Coogler): Original release date of Feb. 28 2022 postponed to May 8 2022. 
  11. Almost all Sony Pictures films to be postponed to release in 2021 including
    1. “Fatherhood” (Conrad Venom)
    2. “Morbius” (Daniel Espinosa)
    3. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Jason Reitman)
    4. “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” (Will Gluck)

As film releases are being pushed back, film festivals have also taken the liberty to release updates on what will be happening regarding the events. If large festivals are eventually cancelled due to the virus, international; independent and documentary films/filmmakers will be the first to suffer at having their chance at the Oscars due to their reliance on exposure and market opportunities from festivals.

  1. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF): The staff at TIFF marked their closure of the theaters and offices at TIFF Bell Lightbox until July 1st, but continue to plan their annual festival from Sept. 10-20. TIFF officially stated that depending on the circumstances we are in by the fall, they will be announcing ways to still hold the festival as they are “looking at both onsite and digital innovations” that will provide for audiences and support filmmakers.
  2. Cannes Film Festival: Cannes, a film festival in France, was originally scheduled to take place from May 12-23 of this year, but has been postponed indefinitely. Although there is no official postponement date for Cannes, the staff has released a plan to start “Marché du Film Online” in order to “support the international film industry” and “mimic the market experience at Cannes.” The program will include online screenings, video booths and virtual meetings that will be available on June 22. 
  3. Venice Film Festival: There will be no change in plans for the Venice Film Festival in Italy. As Italy begins to slowly lift their lock-down protocols from the country, staff of the Venice Film Festival will only wait to see the guidelines attendees must follow at the festival rather than postponing or cancelling the event. For now, the dates for the festival still remain from Sept. 2-12. 
  4. Telluride Film Festival: The Telluride film festival in Colorado is still being held from Sept. 4-7. There are no current updates or announcements on any future changes regarding the festival. 
  5. Sundance Film Festival: The 2020 Utah film festival Sundance already took place earlier in the year in late January. There are no scheduled changes in dates for the 2021 Sundance schedule and the festival is currently still being held from Jan. 21-31.  
  6. Berlin International Film Festival: The 70th annual film festival in Berlin already occurred in Feb. 2020 and dates for the 71st Berlin film festival are currently unchanged from Feb. 11-21 2021. 

Although there is still hope for film festivals to be held later in the year or in 2021, the postponement in movie productions and releases will greatly affect the 2021 Academy Awards. The Academy might be forced to push the date of award ceremony back or change the rules for nominee qualifications. One of the rule changes include the removal of the “minimum seven-day theatrical run in a Los Angeles theater” to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. 

Even if producers and directors are able to move their release dates back, some films such as Paramount’s “Lovebirds” are being taken out of future theaters and swapped to a Netflix release. Several films may follow the path of re-routing to streaming services rather than having their intended theatrical release if there are no major improvements regarding the pandemic in upcoming months.

If large threats of COVID-19 continue into the fall, not enough films will make it to the Academy Awards based on the normal regulations and the last movie I will have seen before then will be Jeff Fowler’s “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Although the threats and future changes to the Oscars are uncertain, the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony date still remains as Feb. 28 2021 until further notice.