Coronavirus Sickens the Box Office


Bree Soto, Writer

As the number of people afflicted with the coronavirus continues rising, the economic effects of the virus are becoming noticeable. At the time of writing this article, approximately 81,000 people have been affected by the virus, and nearly 78,000 of these victims are located in China. Now, that doesn’t seem like a big deal on its own, considering China’s population exceeds 1.4 billion people; however, the movie industry will suffer significant losses if the virus is not contained soon. 

China alone normally accounts for 55-60% of box office revenue and especially for blockbusters. To put that into context, China produced over $600 million in revenue on its own for Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing film in box office history at nearly $2.8 billion throughout its theatrical run. Furthermore, China generated $9 billion in total ticket sales for 2019. 

The Chinese film industry has effectively been brought to a standstill. Nearly, all of China’s 70,000 theaters have been shut down in response to the coronavirus outbreak out of fear of the virus spreading, according to Business Insider. It is unknown when these theaters will reopen for business. Over $1 billion in Chinese ticket sales has been lost, with current ticket revenue sitting at a measly $3.9 million in the last few weeks. Now, Hollywood and the rest of the movie industry are starting to feel the effects.

Sets, such as Mission: Impossible VII, and have shut down production in countries impacted with increasing amounts of infected individuals. Meanwhile, several movie releases have been postponed in China. Jojo Rabbit, 1917, other Oscar-contending films, and most recently, Sonic the Hedgehog and Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, have yet to be released. The Chinese premiere of the latest James Bond film, No Time To Die, and its press tour are also canceled due to the virus. Daniel Craig and the rest of the cast members will not attend the Beijing screening previously scheduled for April.

The film that will most likely suffer the most if the coronavirus continues will be the Disney live-action remake of the 1998 classic, Mulan, originally set to open on March 27. Mulan, of course, is set in China, making the Chinese people the target audience, despite the criticism of the many historical inaccuracies within the movie. The film is only predicted to generate $40-$60 million on opening weekend in the United States and other territories, meaning that Mulan will need to rely on Chinese movie-goers to earn back the remaining $180 million of its budget. There is currently no release date for Mulan in China.

What does this mean for the film industry in the long run? Blockbusters, again, will bear the brunt of the losses. A Quiet Place II, The New Mutants, and Black Widow are among the upcoming blockbusters this spring that could see considerable losses if theaters fail to reopen in China in the next few weeks. The movie industry employs tens of thousands of people as well. A producer working with Frant Gwo, the director of the 2019 Chinese science fiction film The Wandering Earth, said “there will be a portion of people who may end up losing their jobs,” as a result of the coronavirus. It’s not just the actors, directors, or producers that could be out of work, but the unsung heroes of the industry as well. Thousands of graffers, editors, assistants, and even the caterers are at risk.

And it won’t be just the film industry that is negatively affected by the coronavirus. If a cure is not found soon, the global economy will undergo heavy changes. Don’t forget that China is the largest exporter in the world and the third-largest importer. So many countries depend on trade with China and with businesses shutting down, the majority of textile and merchandise production shuts down as well. In the grand scheme of things, the movie industry is an insignificant player in the global economy. Yes, movies are important to you and me on a personal level and while movies are great sources of storytelling and entertainment, we could be looking at staggering economic repercussions from the virus.