Coronavirus batters film industry

Outbreak temporarily closes cinemas

From The Orlando Weekly, March 17, 2020

Please note: This is a revised version of this previous story.

From 12 Monkeys to Contagion to zombie flicks, the movie industry loves viral-outbreak films. Now it’s starring in a real-life one.

Though the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is exponentially less serious than the health crises depicted in Hollywood disaster films, the outbreak has led to the temporary closure of Maitland’s Enzian Theater and the postponement of the Florida Film Festival. The arthouse cinema announced on Monday that it will be closed through April 2 and will tentatively reopen on April 3, and will delay its festival.

And, in a surprise move, the Enzian has revealed its entire lineup, which include 195 films, more than ever before, though the lineup is subject to change. Go here for a list of all the films.

Regarding the temporary closure of the theater, Janie Pope, director of development and public relations, said, “We believe this is the best course of action to ensure the safety of our patrons and our staff. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the temporary closure of both our theater and Eden Bar is not without financial burden. We are very grateful to our supporters and appreciate any contributions made to help Enzian and its staff during this time.”

“In light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended guidelines regarding COVID-19, this year’s Florida Film Festival, scheduled for April 17-26, has been postponed,” the Enzian said in a prepared statement. “Festival staff members are tentatively aiming to reschedule for August 2020. Exact dates are still to be determined. To reiterate, the festival is not canceled; it is postponed. In doing so, we stand in solidarity with leading cultural institutions and other film festivals, as well as the CDC, by taking proactive steps towards combating the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. The well-being of our guests, partners, and staff is of utmost importance. While this postponement is regretful and hard to swallow considering the thousands of hours that the staff and selection committees have devoted to creating an amazing festival, moving it from April is clearly the safest thing for our audiences and filmmakers, and the right thing to do.”

The postponement of the Florida Film Festival comes on the heels of the cancellation of the South by Southwest Film Festival and the postponements of the Tribeca and Sarasota festivals.

The overall film industry is facing an economic calamity due to the prohibition of large public gatherings. And though most cinema chains, such as AMC and Regal Cinemas, were initially content to limit attendance to 50 percent, they are now starting to close completely. American cinemas seem to be taking a cue from France, which limited attendance to 100 people in each auditorium before eventually announcing theaters would close. However, in some hopeful news out of that country, the Cannes Film Festival, scheduled for May, announced on March 14 that it would wait until mid-April to decide to cancel or postpone.

Cinema closures are due partially to lack of content, as the openings of films such as Mulan, Fast & Furious 9, A Quiet Place Part II and No Time to Die have been postponed, leaving the industry with no major releases for the rest of March. Netflix’s decision to halt production for the next two weeks, which The New York Times first reported on March 13, could also produce a ripple effect. And the Florida Office of Film & Entertainment announced on Twitter on March 16, “In light of the declaration of emergency in the City of Miami, we will not be granting film permits until further notice. Permits that have been approved are hereby revoked.”

One thing is certain: This story’s ending remains to be written.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. on March 17.

© 2020 Orlando Weekly / MeierMovies, LLC

Image courtesy iStockPhoto (#173573801, by KLH49)