The infamous coronavirus, COVID-19, has affected thousands of people, businesses and everything across the world in 2020. In the midst of this change, the impact the pandemic has had on the global box office is devastating. Movie ticket sales are plummeting in theaters all across the world, as they have been closed since March and just now starting to reopen in some locations.
Going five months without one movie ticket sale has caused some of our local theaters to consider shutting down, such as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Many blockbuster movies that were originally scheduled to be released between March and November have been delayed or completely canceled. The virus has also caused film productions to be postponed or dropped.
Due to the closing of theaters around the world, the global box office has declined tremendously. The BCC stated that the box office has not been lower in North America since 1998. The global box office dropped by $5 billion dollars after hitting a record high of $42.5 billion before March, according to Variety. Film exhibitors have stocks in companies that own and pay for showings of movies in theaters. At-home streaming services have caused the stocks for film exhibitors to crash.
At-home streaming services have become more popular, as many people are staying home or quarantining. But, streaming services are also cheaper than attending a theater. For example, according to The Tower, the average movie ticket cost $12 in 2019, and the cost of Netflix’s basic plan is $8.99 per month. On average, there are over 4,000 movies, not including television shows, completely accessible to anyone who has the basic plan on Netflix. Although the cinema experience, 34-foot wide screen and complete surround sound, is not included with the Netflix basic plan, the money saved and easy access is taking over the global box office.
Things finally started to turn around as the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, which includes major production companies such as Walt Disney, Netflix and CBS, submitted a report on June 1. The report was full of recommendations on health and safety guidelines for cast and crew members of film productions. The guidelines included regular COVID-19 testing, the use of face coverings at all times other than filming and suspension of the buffet style food service that is usually provided on sets. The report also recommended all live audiences be virtual and castings be done online.
Filming resumed after June 12 under these strict health guidelines and after the production companies had approval from local county public health departments.
Nationally, to be approved to start production again there needs to be a slow rate of positive tests from the cast and crew, careful preparation for healthcare services, and the cast and crew must give a list of everyone's contacts for tracing purposes. Social distancing is practiced heavily, especially around the cast who are unable to wear masks while filming. Productions are required to have an on-set health safety supervisor to enforce the requirements. No visitors are allowed on set and shooting has to be limited to ten hours a day.
These new health requirements during the pandemic have to be followed by all state film industries in the United States. Missouri production companies and vendors have to pledge to follow these protocols to continue production.
These strict guidelines will hopefully help the global box office to improve sales. Movie theaters might see a high rise in business as people are finally able to get out of their homes. After being under lock down for five months, I don’t think anyone will ever take movie theaters for granted again.