Home Release Dates Uncertain After Movie, Original Series Postponements and Production Halts

Movie release postponements as well as production suspensions for films and original SVOD series due to the mounting coronavirus health crisis will likely lead to significant shifts in the home release calendar for the rest of the year.

With movies typically becoming available for disc or digital delivery three months or so after their theatrical openings, delayed home releases include several big Hollywood movies, including the Walt Disney Co.’s live-action Mulan; Universal Pictures’ latest “Fast and Furious” film, F9; and the Paramount Pictures horror sequel A Quiet Place: Part II.

Meanwhile, such original digital series as the Netflix comedy “Grace and Frankie” and Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+, will likely debut later than expected due to production halts.

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On the film front, Mulan’s scheduled March 27 theatrical opening has been called off, with no new date set — despite a star-studded premiere March 9 at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood that was attended by some 3,400 guests and a smaller London premiere March 12.

F9’s theatrical debut has been postponed by nearly a year, from May 2020 to April 2, 2021. According to a Twitter posting, “While we know there is disappointment in having to wait a little while longer, this movie is made with the safety of everyone as our foremost consideration.”

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A Quiet Place: Part II, slated to open March 20, has also been taken off the schedule, with no new date set.

The first big movie to be postponed was the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die, with Daniel Craig in his final turn as the fabled spy. On March 3 MGM, Eon and Universal Pictures announced that the planned April theatrical debut was off and the film, instead would open in the United Kingdom on Nov. 12 and in the United States on Nov. 25.

The companies said the decision came “after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace.”

Disney also pushed back the theatrical openings of two other movies, the horror film Antlers, original slated for April 17, and Marvel’s New Mutants, which was supposed to hit the big screen on April 3. No new dates have been set. New Mutants has already been delayed for years due to production issues and uncertainties associated with Disney’s buyout of Fox.

In addition to A Quiet Place: Part II, Paramount postponed the theatrical debut of The Lovebirds from April 3 to an unspecified date. The theatrical release of another Paramount film, Mission: Impossible VII, is up in the air after filming in Venice, Italy, was stopped in February due to the coronavirus outbreak there.

Also pulled from its originally scheduled theatrical release date is Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which was supposed to open March 27 in Europe and in the United States on April 3. The film is now slated to open on Aug. 7.

Most recently, Variety on March 13 reported that Disney “for a short time” has halted production and pre-production on The Last Duel, The Little Mermaid, Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, Home Alone, Nightmare Alley, Peter Pan & Wendy and Shrunk.

“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our productions, after considering the current environment and the best interests of our cast and crew, we have made the decision to pause production on some of our live-action films for a short time,” according to a studio statement, the Variety story said. “We will continue to assess the situation and restart as soon as feasible.”

The day before, March 12, various media outlets reported that Skydance Television, producer of “Grace and Frankie,” halted production of the seventh and final season of the comedy, which stars Jane Fonda, 82, and Lily Tomlin, 80.

Two days earlier, USA Today reported that Disney shut down production of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” in Prague.

ViacomCBS Takes Another Hit With Masters Golf Postponement

On the heels of the NCAA canceling the lucrative March Madness men’s and women’s national championship basketball tournaments due to the coronavirus, ViacomCBS took another fiscal hit with the postponement of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. CBS has broadcast the live event from the Augusta National Golf Club since 1956.

With major professional, college and high-school sports shutting down events to help thwart the spread of the virus, the PGA Tour had little choice but to cancel existing and pending events.

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“Ultimately, the health and well-being of everyone associated with these events and the citizens of the Augusta community led us to this decision,” Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said in a statement. “We hope this postponement puts us in the best position to safely host the Masters Tournament and our amateur events at some later date.”

The Masters, which was scheduled for April 9-12, is the fifth event on the PGA Tour schedule that will not be played in its current spot on the calendar, following the cancellation of the remainder of the Players Championship, Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida, WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas, and Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.

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XFL Cancels Reboot Season, Vows 2021 Return

WWE founder Vince McMahon’s alternative professional football league, the XFL, is canceling the remainder of its inaugural season due to the coronavirus. The move follows other professional sports leagues and organizations shutting down venues and events to help thwart the spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people and killed about 5,000.

Games have been streamed on Disney-owned ESPN’s ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.

With many state and local governments issuing moratoriums on large gatherings of people (limited to 250 or less), the decision was largely out of McMahon’s hands.

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“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games,” the league said in a statement. “However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

The XFL, which had completed five weeks of its season, was scheduled to hold its championship game on April 26. The NFL doesn’t begin play until September.

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Discovery Latest Media Company to Nix Upfront TV Shows Presentation

Discovery has become the latest media company cancel its live Upfront presentation in New York. The move followed similar decisions by NBC, CBS, Fox, Disney, The CW and WarnerMedia Entertainment to nix showcasing new TV shows in an effort to thwart staff exposure and possible spread of the coronavirus.

Discovery said its decision was made out of an abundance of caution and care for the health and safety of employees, talent and business partners. Discovery said it has prepared an alternative “digital experience” to showcase the company, portfolio, and advanced advertising products to its clients and agency partners, with details to be announced at a later date.

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“The decision to cancel is bittersweet but unequivocally the right one,” Jon Steinlauf, Discovery’s chief U.S. ad sales officer, said in a statement. “We have a terrific story to tell and more opportunities and products than ever for current and prospective advertisers. We will just tell that story in a way that best suits these unprecedented times.”

Discovery’s content portfolio includes Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport.

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Canada’s Largest Theater Chain Staying Open Despite Coronavirus Spread

Cineplex, Canada’s largest exhibitor with 165 theaters employing 10,000 people, March 12 issued a statement in support of combating the growing coronavirus pandemic with a strategy of operating as usual.

CEO Ellis Jacob, citing the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the threat to public safety from the virus remains low, and as a result the chain will remain open for business — while mandating specific changes for staff and attendees.

Through March 10, Canada had one death linked to the virus and 70 citizens diagnosed with the disease.

Specifically, Cineplex said it has incorporated “enhanced cleaning protocols” in all locations, with particular focus on high-traffic and high-contact areas. Coronaviruses are easily eliminated by routine surface cleaning and the cleaning products Cineplex uses are industrial-grade and food-service approved.

The chain has also implemented increased communications and PSAs for consumers, partners and employees on importance of health and safety in the workplace. It advises anyone not feeling well to refrain from visiting the movie theater.

“Know that we are doing our part by putting employment policies in place so that our hourly staff are protected and are not penalized financially if they need to stay home,” Jacob said. “Again, we continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide ongoing updates as needed. We also encourage our guests to stay up-to-date through Canada’s Public Health website.”


WonderCon Postponed Amid Coronavirus Frenzy

To the surprise of few, the 2020 edition of WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., has been postponed as a result of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The event had been slated for April 10-12 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The fan gathering is organized by the Comic-Con International group, which also presents the annual San Diego Comic-Con International, an annual mecca for studios and content creators to interact with pop-culture fans, and showcase new movies and TV shows.

While not as large, WonderCon still attracted a sizeable presence from nearby, Hollywood, though studios had begun to withdraw from fan gatherings in recent weeks in an effort to protect their employees from the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

While myriad confabs and sporting events were becoming casualties of the growing fear of the spread of COVID-19, on March 11 CCI affirmed plans to carry on with both WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con this year.

Later on March 11, however, the California Department of Public Health announced a recommendation that gatherings and events of more than 250 people should either be postponed or cancelled to protect public health and slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

WonderCon typically draws about 60,000 attendees, about half of its San Diego counterpart.

The initial announcement of the California guidelines covered events through the end of March, which meant WonderCon technically fell outside the orders’ parameters.

However, by March 12 CCI finally acceded to what most observers had considered an eventuality.

In a statement, CCI announced that it would abide by the recommendation and postpone WonderCon. Those who had purchased badges will receive refunds.

San Diego Comic-Con is still planned for July 23-26.


Black Thursday: Coronavirus Fears Shutter Amusement Parks, TV Productions, ‘March Madness’ as Dow Suffers Biggest Drop Since 1987

In a bad week things got decidedly worse March 12 as the Dow suffered its worst decline since 1987 as investors dumped stocks with growing fears about the escalating coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people globally and killed almost 5,000.

In Hollywood, increased numbers of television series productions halted work in an effort to safeguard cast and crew against the potential spread of the virus. Studios pushed back release dates for A Quiet Place II and Fast and Furious 9, among other titles.

TV productions halted included Apple’s “The Morning Show” and “Little America,” Netflix’s “Russian Doll,” The CW’s “Riverdale,” CBS’s “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor,” among others.

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The Walt Disney Co. elected to temporarily close Disneyland and California Adventure, a move it has already done in China, Hong Kong and Japan. Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., remain open. Citing an “abundance of caution,” Universal Studios closed its theme parks as well.

In sports, Major League Soccer and the NHL suspended play nationwide, while Major League Baseball halted spring training. The NCAA decided to terminate the $900 million annual “March Madness” men’s national basketball championship tournament before it even started. The governing body of intercollegiate athletics had initially elected to limit the tournament to participating teams, school officials and families.

It took a further step the day after the NBA suspended play indefinitely after a player on the Utah Jazz test positive for the virus.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the organization said in a statement.

The canceling of March Madness came after conferences such as the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big West and Big 12 announced that their respective tournaments were off.

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“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA said.

Meanwhile, the Dow index lost all gains from 2018 with the S&P 500 dropping 7% after the opening bell, which caused an automatic 15-minute trading halt on Wall Street.


Warner Bros. Issues Statement on Tom Hanks’ Coronavirus Diagnosis

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, March 11 publicly announced they had been diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the flu-like disease that has stricken more than 125,000 worldwide and killed 5,000.

Hanks and Wilson are in Australia where the actor is in pre-production on a Warner Bros.’ Elvis Presley biopic from director Baz Luhrmann. Hanks plays Presley’s manager, Tom Parker.

In a statement, Warner said it was aware that a “company member” from the Elvis feature film had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the appropriate Australian health agencies to identify and contact anyone who may have come in direct contact with the individual,” the studio said in a statement. “The health and safety of our company members is always our top priority, and we are taking precautions to protect everyone who works on our productions around the world.”

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Warner said the “individual” who tested positive for COVID-19 is currently receiving treatment.

Indeed, Hanks, on his social media platform said he and Rita are following prescribed medical protocols.

“We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires,” he wrote. “Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated.”

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Hollywood, Tom Hanks Stricken as Coronavirus Fear Spreads

The emerging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the United States and globally — on Wall Street, at industry conferences, and in sports, commerce and Hollywood

The virus has stricken more than 120,000 globally with the death toll at more than 4,300. In the U.S., more than 31 people have died and more than 1,000 have tested positive for the disease.

After weeks of insisting the show would go on, the National Association of Theatre Owners canceled CinemaCon 2020 set for March 30-April 2 in Las Vegas. There is increasing concern movie theaters should shut down as a precaution — a move already in place in Asia, Italy and other countries.

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In China, 70,000 movie theaters have been closed since January and the box office is reportedly down nearly $2 billion in the first two months of the year.

Yet a recent survey from The Hollywood Reporter found that 44% of 2,200 respondents opposed the idea of movie theaters temporarily shutting down because of the virus, while 38% supported the idea.

PaleyFest, the Los Angeles confab showcasing media and TV has been postponed over the coronavirus concerns. The festival was slated to begin March 13 with a tribute to “Modern Family” at the Dolby Theatre.

“Based on the most recent news and out of an abundance of concern, we have made the difficult decision to postpone this year’s PaleyFest,” Teresa Brady, director of communications for the Paley Center for Media, said in a statement. “While we were looking forward to presenting another stellar lineup of PaleyFest events, the safety of our event participants, guests and staff is the highest priority. We are exploring options to reschedule the festival and all ticket purchases will be honored for the new dates.”

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Studios have delayed releases for “No Time to Die” and “Peter Rabbit 2,” among other releases, while production on the next “Mission: Impossible” was halted in Italy.

Hulu announced it was canceling the March 12 premiere of “Little Fires Everywhere,” the limited series starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

“As you are all aware, the current state of affairs has altered the daily lives of many people, including our cast and crew,” Hulu said in a statement. ” After hearing from many of you, and out of an abundance of caution, we are canceling tomorrow’s ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ premiere screening and celebration.”

The series launches on Hulu on March 18.

Actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, both 63, publicly acknowledged that they had tested positive for the virus in Australia — the first high-profile celebrities to do so.

“We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches,” Hanks said in a statement. “Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers, too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus, and were found to be positive.”

The actor said he and his wife would will be “tested, observed and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”

After weeks trying to downplay the issue, President Trump March 11 ordered a 30-day travel ban between the United States and Europe in an attempt to restrict flow of the virus domestically. The move was criticized by some as the virus is already in the country and spread through human contact.

The National Basketball Association suspended its season March 11 after a player on the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus. As previously reported, the NCAA ordered that its pending national championship basketball tournament, or “March Madness,” be played in front of team officials and family members only. Some observers feel the tournament — which generates the bulk of its $900 million in revenue from broadcast television and streaming video — will now be canceled as well.

Two major entertainment shows, E3 and the NAB Show, also have been postponed.

NAB Latest Big Trade Show to ‘Postpone’ Due to Concerns Over Coronavirus

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention, which this year was promising a bigger-than-ever focus on streaming, is the latest big entertainment trade show to announce an indefinite postponement due to concerns over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

The NAB was scheduled to take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center April 18-22. The show, the largest for media, entertainment and technology, has been held in Las Vegas each year since 1991 and attracts upwards of 100,000 attendees and exhibitors.

The NAB show covers broadcast TV, radio, production, streaming, cable TV, satellite TV, film restoration, data storage, data management, weather forecasting, and other elements of the broadcast industry.

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NAB president and CEO Gordon Smith on March 11 issued the following letter:

“As you know, we have been carefully monitoring coronavirus developments both domestically and globally over the past few weeks.

“In the interest of addressing the health and safety concerns of our stakeholders and in consultation with partners throughout the media and entertainment industry, we have decided not to move forward with NAB Show in April. We are currently considering a number of potential alternatives to create the best possible experience for our community.

“This was not an easy decision. Fortunately, we did not have to make this decision alone, and are grateful to our NAB Show community for engaging with us as we grappled with the rapidly-evolving situation. This Show is as much yours as it is ours, and it is important to us that we move forward together.

“For nearly 100 years, NAB Show has provided superior value and the best possible experience for exhibitors and attendees. We knew that if we could not deliver on those expectations, we would not move forward. More importantly, keeping the community safe and healthy is NAB’s highest priority; therefore, we are deferring to the developing consensus from public health authorities on the challenges posed by coronavirus.

“We are still weighing the best potential path forward, and we ask you for your patience as we do so. We are committed to exploring all possible alternatives so that we can provide a productive setting where the industry can engage with the latest technology, hear from industry thought leaders and make the game-changing connections that drive our industry forward.

“I want to stress that despite our disappointment at how this year’s Show has been impacted by global public health concerns, we are more excited than ever about the future of NAB Show and our relationship with you.

“We are grateful for each and every member of our Show community. It is your passion for the industry that makes NAB Show a success year after year, and it is that same passion that will drive us into the future as we look ahead to new possibilities later this year and beyond.”