This is the Coronavirus Case Studies series. Every post in this series will talk about how the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 will affect different businesses for years to come. We’re all still processing this massive, life-changing event. This week, we talk about how coronavirus will affect the film and television industry. 

In the months that we have all been stuck inside under quarantine, many of us have turned to binge-watching old movies and shows to stay occupied. While there are thousands of incredible shows and movies available for you to stream, the future for both industries has been a bit cloudy, to say the least.

As someone who absolutely loves going to the movies, I am worried about how COVID-19 will affect both of these powerhouse industries. So let’s look a little deeper.

What is the Film and Television Industry?

For the sake of clarity, let’s go ahead and define what we mean when we say “the film and television industry.” The film industry, or motion picture industry, comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking. That includes film production companies, film studios, cinematography, animation, film production, screenwriting, pre-production, post-production, film festivals, distribution and actors, film directors, and other film crew personnel. In other words, it takes a very large number of people to put a film together, from beginning to end. 

The film industry alone makes up $136 billion in revenue in 2018. About $42 billion of that – almost a third – was earned at the box office.

The television industry is superficially similar to the film industry but has its own unique qualities to it. Television, as a medium, serves a lot of purposes, ranging from sharing information and news to providing entertainment.

In the US in 2016 alone, there were nore than 2,900 television broadcasting and cable and subscription programming establishments. The revenue generated by the TV industry generated $120 billion, which is almost as much as the film industry.

Television is ubiquitous, too. Approximately 95.2 percent of U.S. households owned a TV in 2016. Even after the advent of the internet, TV remains the most popular mass media in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.

Add up these two industries and you’re talking about a quarter-trillion dollars every year. That’s more than 1% of the US’s gross domestic product of $20.54 trillion – a figure which represents the sum total of all (measurable) economic value created in the US in the entire year of 2018. That’s not even considering the social impact of the industries in shaping opinion either.

Needless to say, I had a few major concerns for how COVID-19 would impact these fields. I’m going to focus on my three biggest concerns for the rest of this post.

Safely Filming is Difficult

The virus spreads through close contact, primarily through the transmission of viral droplets. So it is no surprise to anyone that filming for many shows and movies were paused in their tracks when coronavirus started to run rampant throughout the United States. With cases climbing by the day, film crews and production teams were forced to shift from filming to working only on behind the scenes work such as perfecting scripts, editing, etc. 

You can’t make whole movies on telephoto and wide-angle shots filmed outdoors. For this reason, the virus was a disaster for the normal film and TV workflow.

But the show must go on. In early June 2020, the Screen Actors Guild published a report titled The Safe Way Forward with specific guidelines for film and TV productions to follow if they wanted to resume filming after the three-month pandemic shutdown. The restrictions outlined are expected to be followed until the pandemic is under control.

For example, productions are required to carry out frequent COVID-19 tests, have closed sets with no visitors allowed, and are limited to shooting for no more than ten hours at a time. Zones must also be created for the cast and crew who are unable to wear PPE or maintain social distancing. If you’ve never worked on a movie set before, it can be hard to imagine just how disruptive this can be.

It’s Not a Good Time to Go to the Movie Theater

While filming was forced to be paused for so many, there were already tons of movies set to come out in 2020 – and I mean big movies. The list is pretty long and includes:

  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • Marvel’s Black Widow
  • James Bond: No Time to Die
  • Mulan
  • F9 (Fast & Furious)
  • A Quiet Place Part 2.

Some big films have been canceled indefinitely while others, like Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, have changed course for streaming services instead. Many of these movies’ release dates were simply pushed back to later in the year, however, that does not change the fact that COVID-19 is still a HUGE concern. In fact, at the time we’re writing this, we fully expect these movies to be further delayed.

Studios Are Rethinking Distribution

This isn’t surprising, but it is important. Even if you’re used to quarantining by now, it hurts to realize that the days of going to the movies with your friends have been paused, like so many other things we love to do. With that in mind, how are some companies making the most of this situation? At-home releases!

This is a BIG deal. Remember that about 30% of the film industry’s $136 billion comes from the box office. Closing the box office is not something they’re doing lightly!

You have probably seen trailers for some movies coming out lately that will be followed by “available for streaming now”. Forget the dark theaters and the overpriced popcorn! The movies are now coming right to our homes. Here is a list of some of the newest movies available for you to stream. Again, there are some big names on this list!

Final Thoughts

COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt to the new climate, both personally, and as a society. With revised guidelines and safety measures appearing every single day, it is safe to say that the pandemic is still front of mind.

These are scary times, but I assure you, we will adapt and overcome. Movies and television will still come out. They might arrive a bit later than anticipated, or on a different platform than you expected, but they will be there…eventually. We always find a way to prevail!