COVID-19

Hollywood gets a little boost from China … but it might come at a price

Jasmine Garsd Jul 27, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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People watch a movie while wearing masks in Wuhan, China, on July 20. STR/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Hollywood gets a little boost from China … but it might come at a price

Jasmine Garsd Jul 27, 2020
People watch a movie while wearing masks in Wuhan, China, on July 20. STR/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Last weekend, China had its first opening at the box office since the pandemic started, showing some American films like “Bloodshot” with Vin Diesel, and “Dolittle” with Robert Downey Jr. It was a partial reopening — over 40% of movie theaters at less than half capacity. The result, according to Chinese data providers: a $4.71 million three-day debut for “Dolittle” and $2.61 million for “BloodShot.” 

That’s pennies compared to what Hollywood usually rakes in, but Sky Canaves, with China Film Insider, said “it’s really, right now, one of the few avenues that Hollywood has available for its films.”

Especially with most movie theaters in America shut down indefinitely. Aynne Kokas, author of “Hollywood Made in China,” said the tables have turned dramatically.

“In March, it looked like the U.S. was actually poised to dramatically overtake the Chinese film market for 2020,” Kokas said. “Now it looks like we’re seeing the reverse.”

“Bloodshot” and “Dolittle” had already premiered in the United States and around the world. The bigger question Hollywood is facing right now is how to premiere a brand new film. Do you go straight to video streaming — like Universal did with “Trolls World Tour” — and risk the fury of U.S. theaters? Do you postpone indefinitely — like Disney recently did with “Mulan” — and disappoint fans? 

Or a third alternative might be premiering films in theaters in countries that have already reopened. 

That’s the strategy for Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated new sci-fi movie, “Tenet,” which will open internationally in late August ahead of its Labor Day release in the U.S. Mike Smith, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said that could open the doors to piracy.

“As soon as you release it in some of these markets, you’re going to get a pirate copy that originates from the theatrical screening, and that pirate copy is going to infect the worldwide markets,” he said. 

There are a lot of questions for Hollywood and fans, and for now, not a lot of answers.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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