The coronavirus pandemic has drastically impacted how most industries operate, including the film industry. When the world went on lockdown, film production halted. Many jobs were impacted since Hollywood supports over 2 million workers.
Movie theaters are a huge source of revenue, as box offices collected around $42 billion worldwide in 2019, according to the World Economic Forum. However, over the past couple of years, there has been an ongoing transition from watching movies in theaters to viewing on streaming platforms. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, movie theaters were forced to close temporarily, increasing the rate of this transition.
Viewers have flocked to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Disney+ for their main source of entertainment during the pandemic, as live TV stopped production. Previously filmed movies were released on these platforms instead of being shown in theaters, like “Mulan” on Disney+.
According to the Washington Post, limited production began to resume around August with casts and crews gradually returning to sets. However, being on set now looks very different. There are COVID-19 compliance officers to monitor health and safety policies on set. There are regular testing and temperature checks, and masks and social distancing are required when possible. These precautions and more make production take longer and cost more. This can also mean fewer takes per scene.
Instead of being able to walk around freely, crews are divided into pods. More precautions must be taken for craft services (food stations) and makeup.
The Washington Post also described that there will be changes in content. Filmmakers are not shooting crowd scenes, limiting their use of real world locations. Less physical intimacy will be portrayed, unless it is between actors with offscreen relationships. Extras, who create the environment for most scenes, will be limited.
Writers have big choices to make regarding how much of the pandemic they want to incorporate into films. Making movies about the past is one solution. The horror genre benefits from this because they can incorporate themes of the pandemic, like isolation, into their plots.
According to the Washington Post, independent films are struggling the most as a result of COVID-19 given their smaller budgets. All productions require insurance policies to protect films from lawsuits and completion bonds, where money is guaranteed if a project stops. However, insurance companies are reluctant to include coverage for COVID-19 in their policies.