Written by Ivana Katsarova,
With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused the shutdown of some 70 000 cinemas in China, nearly 2 500 in the US and over 9 000 in the EU, the joy sparked by the success of the film industry in 2019 has quickly given way to anxiety. Shootings, premieres, spring festivals and entertainment events have faced near-total cancellation or postponement due to the pandemic, thus inflicting an estimated loss of US$5 billion on the global box office; this amount could skyrocket to between US$15 billion and US$17 billion, if cinemas do not reopen by the end of May 2020.
The EU film sector is essentially made up of small companies employing creative and technical freelancers, which makes it particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. The domino effect of the lockdown has triggered the immediate freeze of hundreds of projects in the shooting phase, disrupted cash flows and pushed production companies to the brink of bankruptcy. To limit and/or mitigate the economic damage caused by coronavirus, governments and national film and audiovisual funds across the EU have been quick in setting up both general blanket measures (such as solidarity funds and short-term unemployment schemes) and/or specific industry-related funds and grants (helping arthouse cinema and providing financial relief to producers and distributors).
For its part, the EU has acted promptly to limit the spread of the virus and help EU countries to withstand its social and economic impact. In addition to the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the CRII+, both approved by the European Parliament and the Council in record time, the Commission has set up a Temporary Framework allowing EU countries to derogate from State aid rules, and proposed a European instrument for temporary support (SURE) to help protect jobs and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
In the meantime, various film festivals have gone digital and a number of streaming companies have started offering free options to all those confined to their homes by the lockdown. Similarly, major studios are also releasing films to home video earlier than what has been the norm thus far. It remains unclear as to how long it will take before audiences go back to cinemas and what unexpected consequences the various mitigation measures in place could have.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Coronavirus and the European film industry‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.