Coronavirus Brings the Film Industry to a Halt

It seems like it was just yesterday that reports of coronavirus first appeared across headlines, yet we’ve found ourselves in a global pandemic just a few weeks later. The majority of businesses, schools, and public events have been canceled, but how exactly is the film industry coping with the crisis?

Major movie productions have been suspended across the globe including The Batman, Red Notice, the sequels to Avatar, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Rings, Jurassic World: Dominion, and countless others.

With the outbreak quickly spreading, local movie theaters are bound to close their doors sooner than later. As society retreats indoors to self-quarantine and stay healthy, Universal Pictures’ announced their decision to provide a home video release of their current theatrical movies. Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal stated, “Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable.”

Regal Cinemas Closed; Photo from Reuters

As soon as March 20th, The Hunt, Emma, and The Invisible Man will be available to rent through iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and FandangoNow. Moving forward, select Universal movies will become available through video on demand (VOD) the same day as their theatrical release date.

The decision was made soon after Disney revealed Frozen 2 would debut on Disney+ on March 15th, three full months ahead of schedule in an effort to bring entertainment to homebound viewers.

Warner Brothers quickly followed in their footsteps and announced the digital release of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn on March 24th.

This solution has many wondering if this temporary change will permanently impact TV and film in the future. It’s no secret that the majority of consumers have moved away from traditional theaters and turned to streaming services; now, they can experience the convenience of viewing new releases directly in their own home. Additionally, film studios will have the opportunity to prove how much they can profit from early digital releases without pushback.

Despite speculation, movie theaters have played a valuable role within cinema and for this reason, major studios have postponed certain release dates altogether. For example, Walt Disney Co. has delayed the release of Mulan and the future release of Black Widow, The Personal History of David Copperfield, and The Woman in the Window. Universal Pictures has also delayed the release of F9 (also known as Fast and Furious 9) until further notice.

While there’s no telling when life will return to normal, I think I can speak for the majority when I say I am thankful that the entertainment industry is working to accommodate consumers during this difficult time. Film is a great way to escape the dreadful feeling of “cabin fever” and we can now experience VOD like we have never before. As we begin to practice social distancing, what new releases do you plan to take advantage of?

The Best of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival held it’s award ceremony on February 1st, after a ten day exhibition that featured over 100 independent films. This is one of the most anticipated and exciting film events held in Utah each year.

This was a big year for Sundance, with major public figures including Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton, and Lin-Manuela Miranda joining the scene. The awards ceremony was marked by the announcement that Tabitha Jackson would be taking over John Cooper’s role as director of the festival, the first female director in Sundance history. The festival received a record high of 15,100 submissions and hosted the most diverse lineup of films and talent yet.

This event is a chance for aspiring indie filmmakers to showcase their work and launch their careers. Recognized as the mecca for discovering breakout documentaries, it’s an authentic opportunity for independent storytellers to come together and share the ideas that are inspiring and shaping cinema today. 

Sundance Film Festival, Park City Utah; Photo from Flickr

Here are the most memorable films from the festival that you should keep an eye out for in 2020:

The winners of the Four Grand Jury Prizes include Minari, Boys State, Epicentro, and Yalda, A Night For Forgiveness. Minari won two of the highest honors, the U.S Dramatic Prize award and the Audience U.S. Dramatic award. This autobiography tells the heart-wrenching story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to adjust to rural Arkansas and live the American dream. The film was secured and funded by A24 prior to Sundance, and was among the most well-reviewed entries this year.

Boys State won the U.S. Documentary Prize, another honorable film bought by A24 and Apple for a record-breaking $12 million. This coming-of-age documentary follows a group of Texas high school boys who attend politics camp and create their own mock government over the summer. The premier struck a chord with viewers because it gives a first-hand look into the cut-throat nature behind American politics and the struggle for these teens to come together, rather than let their views divide them. An entertaining yet emotional parallel of the challenges our country faces today, this film shouldn’t be missed.

Audience-Voted Awards went to Minari, Crip Camp, The Reason I Jump, Identifying Features, and I Carry You With Me. The Festival Favorite Award went to Giving Voice, which follows six high school students competing in the August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City. Other notable premiers included The 40 Year Old Version, Kajillionaire, The Killing of Two Lovers, Palm Springs, Shirley, Zola, and Time. What movies are you excited to see from the festival?

#GoldOpen Launches Advisory Council, ‘Golden Rider’ to Promote Diversity in Film

Gold House, a nonprofit collective dedicated to bringing diverse stories to film, is launching an entertainment advisory council made up of industry leaders to incentivize inclusive representation in film. 

Through their global movement, #GoldOpen, the council — whose members include Albert Cheng (COO & head of TV, Amazon Studios), Abhijay Prakash (president, Universal Film Entertainment Group), Kim Yutani (Sundance Film Festival) and Franklin Leonard (The Black List) — will advise on which films will receive #GoldOpen support in the form of theater buyouts for screenings, social media, and press campaigns and global distribution opportunities (see the full list of Advisory Council members). Movies that have received such support since the venture’s inception in 2017 include “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Parasite” and “Just Mercy.” 

Kim Yutani, Franklin Leonard and Albert Cheng; photo from The Hollywood Reporter

The organization announced that #GoldOpen films will need to sign the Golden Rider, an educational agreement that acknowledges the significance of multicultural audiences. Gold House’s first initiative focuses on Asian films. To qualify for a future #GoldOpen, films will have to have “at least one authentically-portrayed Asian Lead and/or an Asian Director who has helmed a film that’s critical to another multicultural community.” 

Filmmakers can put their projects forward for #GoldOpen consideration by visiting the movement’s website. There you can also view a list of past films that have received the honor.

Gold House is steadily amplifying the voices of storytellers from across the Asian diaspora and starting a multicultural movement. This cross-industry collective of prominent storytellers, entrepreneurs and icons have all come together with a shared sense of purpose: to be authentically seen and heard and to accelerate the societal impact of diversity.

“We’ve been in awe of the #GoldOpen community’s passion and impact; change on the ground has created changes at the top that will accelerate the stories our community has been searching for. We now know #GoldOpen can have a profoundly positive impact on a film’s opening weekend success,” Gold House’s #GoldOpen directors, Yao King and Josh Jun, said in a statement. “The #GoldOpen Advisory Council ushers the movement’s next phase by enhancing its transparency and amplifying its cross-industry impact for both artfully independent and big-budget blockbusters. Further, the Gold Rider helps to educate the broader industry about our community’s imperative consumption.”