The coronavirus outbreak in December of last year has swept the board with public health, traveling, business and more. At over 86,000 cases, it has killed thousands and put the pressure on countries to place restrictions and fail safes in case of another outbreak. The entertainment industry may not be hit as hard as these factors, but the ramifications have shown it is decreasing profitability and expenditures all around. It does not bode well for the box office at the start of 2020, leading many to wonder if there will be a recovery on the horizon anytime soon.
China has had thousands of cases of the current epidemic, forcing them to close down businesses and theaters. It is also a critical area in the place of business for Hollywood, similar to how candidates for the presidency seek out the most important areas for the electoral college (ex. Florida, New York, Illinois, etc.). It all depends on the containment of said virus, as many releases have been postponed for the country of China (and more) such as Oscar-award winners Jojo Rabbit and 1917, Sonic the Hedgehog, and now Disney’s remake of Mulan.
This feature was sure to grab a lot of the attention of China as the hero is involved in the setting of the country, working to preserve honor for her family and fight the battles (despite being a woman) with utter conviction. It would have guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars to fly Disney’s way, etching their names further into the history books. Unfortunately, it is delayed for who knows how long, leading to profits being in sincere jeopardy for Disney and its corporation. The big-budget film will release on March 27th, so they will need to decide what precautions to take to ensure maximum profitability for the time being.
In the case of China, many studios rely upon it to bring more money their way since it is the second biggest worldwide box office (behind U.S. and Canada). Having the coronavirus permeate in the public atmosphere is castrating entertainment and films since people want to avoid the infections and not risk lives just for a motion picture. Other countries such as South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan make small increments towards a film’s performance and all have been placed on lockdown due to the severity of the virus. Also, China reportedly had closed all of their theaters (almost 75,000 screens remain untouched). If the math is corrected, that’s millions of dollars lost per day.
Avengers: Endgame became the highest-grossing film of all-time, edging just past James Cameron’s Avatar thanks to a ridiculous 614 million dollars from China alone. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw earned nearly 200 million dollars in the respective country, guaranteeing another date with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in the future. Other studios see China as the cherry-on-top, as it can salvage a film’s overall performance or debate whether a sequel will be coming.
2020 has not been a fantastic year so far for films at the box office. Yes, it is only the beginning of March, but by now one studio should’ve been throwing dollars in others’ faces. Not one film (as of this writing) has cracked half a billion dollars, showing the market is moving onwards at a sluggish pace. Bad Boys for Life, Birds of Prey, and Sonic the Hedgehog are trying their best to maintain ticket sales despite it being pale in comparison to the previous years. If Disney or Universal released one of their massive blockbusters in January or February, then we could have had a different scenario play out here as the domestic box office could ride along just “fine” without the ongoing catastrophes.
As it stands, the coronavirus pandemic has made its presence and is indeed rupturing the box-office. Only time and a couple miracles will tell if studios can get back on track with preserving content and audiences’ interests. If not, this year will make history on the low end of the box-office spectrum thanks to an ongoing health crisis that is sure to last throughout the rest of this year.