Omicron fears shaking up the global film and television industry – The Hollywood Reporter

News from the World Health Organization that a new coronavirus variant, known as Omicron, discovered in southern Africa, is a “variant of interest” has sent shockwaves across the global entertainment industry. disgusted with déjà vu.

Although little is known about Omicron, including resistance to the existing COVID-19 vaccine, the response to this news was swift, as countries around the world imposed restrictive measures. back and forth in an attempt to slow the global popularity of the new variant. More than 40 countries, including the US, UK, European Union states and Australia have imposed temporary restrictions on travel from South African countries deemed “at risk”. including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. A few, including Japan and Israel, have completely closed their borders to non-citizens.

The move comes as COVID cases linked to the Omicron variant have been confirmed in at least 15 countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Israel and Canada. The Omicron variant has a high number of mutations – around 30 – in the mutant protein of the coronavirus, which could allow the virus to spread more quickly and could make a COVID vaccine more difficult to target.

That’s bad news, especially for countries that have seen a spike in COVID cases linked to the Delta variant. Europe has been particularly hard hit, with Austria introducing a new nationwide lockdown on November 22, closing cinemas, restaurants and other public venues, the Slovak government announced. state of emergency and curfew on 24 November, and the Netherlands imposes a partial closure related to a curfew from 5pm to 5am for most businesses, including theatres. , from November 28.

Elsewhere, governments are tightening COVID restrictions, a move seen by many as a prelude to a complete shutdown. Some German states now require moviegoers to prove they have been fully vaccinated against COVID or recovered from COVID-19, with some states requiring vaccinated people to also create a test. negative PCR test for entry, a restriction Christine calls “backdoor locking” Berg, president of the German exhibitors association HDF Kino.

The impact of the new regulations, and growing concerns about visitor safety, are already visible in the attendance figures. 505,000 movie tickets were sold in Germany over the weekend, down 37% from the previous week and the worst weekend since September 24, 2020. Box office receipts across Europe fell. over the past three weeks, noted Rob Mitchell, a box office analyst with Gower Street Analytics in London, though it’s unclear if COVID was the main cause of the drop.

However, there are serious concerns that public fear of Omicron could be a major blow to the holiday season. A UK exhibition director has outlined the UK government’s response to Omicron, including the reintroduction of mandatory mask wearing in shops and public transport. If the measure were expanded to include hotel services and cinemas, the executive noted, it would have an immediate impact.

“We know from every previous occasion that this [such measures are] he said.

“The unfortunate thing about Omicron’s success now is that October is the first month we’ve come very close to the pre-pandemic box office average,” said Gower Street’s Mitchell, noting that October’s global box office revenue was down just 7% from the three-year average for the month of 2017-2019. In European countries that weren’t completely closed, Mitchell noted, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France, box office sales have remained steady weekly.

But movie theater closures in some territories and concerns about further closures prompted Gower to revise down its year-end box office forecast from $21.6 billion (mid-May estimate). 10) to $21.0 billion. Gower’s current global box office tally, released on November 29, estimates worldwide theatrical receipts at around $18.4 billion as of Saturday, November 27. This is 65% higher than the results this time last year but still 51% lower than the three-year average from 2017-2019.

Gower’s year-end numbers represent a best-case scenario in which only some, smaller territory is locked down and studios continue to release their major titles as planned. The worst-case scenario would be theater closures and a drop in box office revenue causing studios to postpone or cancel their upcoming theatrical shows, resulting in the kind of negative feedback loop seen during the second COVID wave. three last fall, where MGM decided to pull James Bond out. There’s no time to die resulted in the closure of the Cineworld exhibitor, which resulted in further delays and further closures.

“The title everyone is looking at right now is [Sony and Marvel’s] Spider-Man: No HomeThat’s what film exhibitors around the world are looking forward to later this year, says Mitchell. “If Sony pulls Spidermanand everyone hopes they don’t, or if the movie is really bad and people assume it’s because of COVID, we could see studios start pulling their titles in the first quarter of 2022.”

So far, conditions in North America appear to be significantly better than in Europe, and major studios have yet to signal major studios’ plans to postpone or cancel screenings. Together with Sony Spiderman sequel, directed by Steven Spielberg of 20th Century Studios West story adaptation and Warner Bros. ‘ Matrix Recovery are still holding on to their scheduled December release date.

But the situation is still uncertain. While the closures in Austria and the Netherlands alone are unlikely to spur major companies to push their multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, closures in major territories like Germany, France or England can change the calculation. This is where China can play an overwhelming role. In fact Matrix Recovery and Spider-Man: There’s no way home both have already been approved for a Chinese release that could tilt in favor of a scheduled rollout, with a staggered or deferred bow, to smaller territories.

On the producer side, there’s also no sign so far that Omicron will shut down global TV series and series.

“Manufacturers have been through the first three waves of COVID and know what to do to keep things moving,” noted one veteran producer. But any potential wobble could affect an already overcrowded market, with studio space and staff at a premium.

British producer Jonathan Weissler said: “There’s a lot of push right now as people are looking at Eastern Europe – the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary – so I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more stuff. again. Unfortunately for studios in the region, COVID cases in the region are among the highest in Europe and vaccination rates are among the lowest.

Omicron is casting a shadow over uncertainty ahead of international events in the industry, including film festivals and trade shows planned for the coming months. The International Association of Broadcasters has canceled its live event, which will begin in Amsterdam on December 3. The international broadcaster Content London, runs from November 29 to December 12. 2, appears to have narrowly escaped the restrictions, with most delegates arriving shortly before the UK introduced new travel restrictions requiring a negative PCR test for those arriving abroad. . For latecomers, the on-site PCR test site will provide same-day results.

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival, scheduled to open on December 6, could become the first to be canceled after the Omicron event. The inaugural event, originally scheduled for March 2020 but became one of the first to be canceled during the first wave of COVID-19, is expected to welcome a large number of attendees. African filmmakers, mostly from North Africa. Saudi Arabia has suspended flights from 14 South African countries, but said people “from all countries” will be able to travel as long as they have received a dose of the vaccine. Festival attendees are now being told they need proof of vaccinations and a recent negative PCR test to attend.

The Berlin Film Festival is still planning to hold a live event from February 10 to 20, 2022 with attendees required to be fully vaccinated or to prove they have recovered from a COVID infection. A spokesperson for Berlinale told The Hollywood Reporter that the festival is considering other options, including requiring a negative PCR test, capacity restrictions, and stricter mask requirements.

“The rapid growth in the number of infections [in Germany] is of course worrisome, so it is very important to consider further containment measures,” she noted. “It goes without saying that we are closely monitoring further developments.”

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