Film industry responds to COVID-19 as many face quarantine

By Jenny Hudak

Film industry responds to COVID-19 as many face quarantine

By Jenny Hudak
As the novel coronavirus continues to force people inside, movie theaters across the globe have closed and streaming services are picking up early releases—making premium content available at home.

The novel coronavirus continues pushing people indoors in an unprecedented manner. As most adapt to living and working remotely, many industries are faced with a challenge—how do they operate without people? 

Over the past two weeks, everything from theaters to professional sports, festivals, and conventions have been shut down in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Movie distributors across the globe have closed their doors to audiences as the box office recorded zero revenue for the first time in history. Studios have halted the production of content for the foreseeable future, leaving many in the entertainment industry wondering what comes next. 

Ana Francois, an assistant professor at the University of Miami School of Communication and former entertainment industry executive, said this pandemic could change how the industry operates in the long term. 

“The most lasting effect of this will be the shortening of the theatrical release windows,” Francois said. “I think movies, feature films, will stay in theaters exclusively for a shorter period of time.”

Francois said that she expects theaters to fully recover from the revenue lost because of the closures, but anticipates changes in the way movies are distributed. The current industry standard follows a 90-day window before movies arrive on streaming platforms. With the boom of streaming platforms and now acceleration of COVID-19, she pointed out that movies could be seeing releases to streaming as quickly as two weeks for home viewers. 

Major media companies have already begun shifting their theatrical releases to streaming and video-on-demand platforms for immediate viewing. 

Last week, Disney+ early released “Frozen 2,” originally set to release online in October. Following Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, and Amazon Prime dropped new episodes of TV programs and movies before their anticipated date. Now, 14 movies including "Emma," "The Hunt," and "The Invisible Man," are available to rent just weeks after they were first released in theaters. Viewers have the option of renting these movies, intended for theatrical release, for $20 for a 24-hour period.

Nielsen is expecting streaming service usage to surge 60 percent in the following weeks, based on total TV usage data from previous major crises. 

“Rather than waiting until this situation stabilizes and they can release movies in theaters, they’re just going straight to their own platforms,” Francois said. “The big winners in this situation are absolutely the streaming services. Whether it’s music or video—their numbers are increasing. But, let’s not forget that all of these platforms are fueled by content. If there’s no content, it’s not a situation that can be sustained for very long.” 

Steven Fernandez, a senior in the School of Communication studying film, said he’s taking the time at home to catch up on his favorite shows and movies. 

“If there’s anything good coming out of being home so much, I definitely have more time to watch all the new stuff that’s coming out. I spent my whole Saturday last week watching movies that I don’t usually have time to watch,” Fernandez admitted. 

Aside from the early release of highly anticipated movies, many platforms are offering discounted rates to encourage viewers to stay home. Here’s a list of streaming and video-on-demand services offering limited time extended free trials, letting you peruse their library without buying a subscription: 

  • Amazon Prime Video (30 Days)
  • CBS All Access (30 Days with Promo Code ALL or GIFT)
  • Hulu (30 Days)
  • Netflix (30 Days)
  • Quibi (90 Days)
  • Showtime (30 Days)
  • HBO Now and HBO Go (Beginning April 3, for a limited time)