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Omicron fears shocking global film, television industry – The Hollywood Reporter

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News from the World Health Organization that a new variant of the coronavirus, called omicron, discovered in South Africa, was a “disturbance variant” has hit the global entertainment industry with a disgusting feeling déjà vu.

While little is known about omicron, including its potential resistance to existing COVID-19 vaccines, the response to the news has been swift, with countries around the world imposing travel restrictions in an effort to slow the global spread of the variant. new. More than 40 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, European Union countries and Australia, have imposed temporary travel restrictions on countries considered “at risk” in South Africa, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. . Some, including Japan and Israel, have completely closed their borders to non-citizens.

The moves come after COVID cases involving the omicron variant have been confirmed in at least 15 countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Israel and Canada. The omicron variant has a high number of mutations – about 30 – in the coronavirus spike protein, which can allow the virus to spread more quickly and make it more difficult to target COVID vaccines.

This is bad news, especially for countries that are already seeing an increase in COVID infections involving the delta variant. Europe has been hit particularly hard, with Austria introducing a new nationwide blockade on November 22, closing cinemas, restaurants and other public spaces, the Slovak government declaring a state of emergency and a state of emergency on November 24, and the Netherlands imposing a partial blockade that includes a curfew from 5pm to 5am for most businesses, including theaters, from 28 November.

Elsewhere, governments are tightening restrictions on COVID, a move many see as a prelude to a complete stalemate. Some German states now require viewers to prove they are fully vaccinated against COVID or have been cured of a COVID infection, with some requiring that vaccinated also produce a negative PCR test for entry, a restriction called “door lock” rear “by Christine Berg. president of the German association of HDF Kino exhibitors.

The impact of the new regulations and growing security concerns from visitors are already appearing in turnout figures. 505,000 movie tickets were sold in Germany this past weekend, a 37 percent drop from week to week and the worst weekend screening since September 24, 2020. Cash bills across Europe have fallen over the past three weeks, notes Rob. Mitchell, a cashier analyst with Gower Street Analytics in London, though it is not clear that COVID was the main cause of the decline.

However, there are serious concerns that public fears over omicron could be a major blow to holiday returns. A UK exhibition executive noted the British government’s response to the omicron, which has included the reintroduction of mandatory wearing of masks in shops and public transport. If this measure were to be extended to include hospitality and cinemas, the executive notes, it would have an immediate impact.

“We know from every previous case that this [such measures are] “a strong deterrent from impulsive visits to the cinema, which is the blood of what we do,” he said.

“The unfortunate thing about Omicron’s achievement now is that October was the first month where we were very close to the average return on receipts before the pandemic,” says Mitchell of Gower Street, noting that global coffers for October were only 7 percent. less than the three-year average for 2017-2019. In European countries without complete blockades, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and France, Mitchell noted, the coffers have been kept stable week after week.

But cinema closures in selected territories and concerns about further blockages have prompted Gower to adjust its year-end forecast for worldwide box office receipts from $ 21.6 billion (its mid-October estimate) to $ 21.0 billion. Gower’s current global figures, released Nov. 29, estimate theater revenue worldwide at about $ 18.4 billion as of Saturday, Nov. 27. That is 65 percent ahead of the results this time last year, but still 51 percent behind the three-year average from 2017-2019.

Gower’s year-end figure represents a better case scenario, in which there are only a few smaller territories in closure and the studios continue to release their big titles as planned. A worse case would be the closure of the theater and the collapse of the coffers to prompt the studios to postpone or cancel their future trends, leading to the kind of negative reaction seen during the third wave of COVID last fall, where the decision of MGM to withdraw James Bond publication There is no time to die led to the closing of the doors of the Cineworld exhibitor, which caused further delays and further closures.

“The title that everyone is seeing now is [Sony and Marvel’s] Spider-Man: No house“, where filmmakers around the world are counting on the end of the year,” says Mitchell. “If Sony withdraws Spider Man, and everyone hopes not to do so, or if the film does not work really badly and people attribute this to COVID, we can see studios start pulling their titles for the first quarter of 2022. “

So far, conditions in North America look significantly better than in Europe, and major studios have not signaled plans to postpone or cancel major theatrical performances. Compare Sony Spider Man sequel, 20th Century Studios directed by Steven Spielberg History of the west side adaptation and Warner Bros. ‘ Matrix Revivals are still awaiting scheduled release dates in December.

But the situation remains unclear. While blockades in Austria and the Netherlands alone are unlikely to push major companies to push their pillars and drop multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns, closures in large territories like Germany, France or the UK could change the calculation. Here China can play a big role. The fact that Matrix Revivals AND Spider-Man: No Way Home both are approved for Chinese release, can tilt the scales in favor of the planned layout, with a scaled arc or push, for smaller territories.

On the production side, so far there is no sign that omicron is shutting down global film and TV shooting.

“Manufacturers have gone through the first three waves of COVID and know what to do to keep things moving,” a veteran producer noted. But any potential shake-up could affect what is already a highly overcrowded market, with studio space and high-priced teams.

“There’s a lot of push now that people are looking at Eastern Europe – the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary – so I wouldn’t be surprised if we could move a lot more things there,” says British producer Jonathan Weissler. Unfortunately for studios in the region, COVID cases in the region are among the highest in Europe and the vaccination rate among the lowest.

Omicron is casting a shadow of uncertainty over international industry events, including film festivals and trade fairs planned for the coming months. The International Broadcasting Convention canceled its operation in person, which will start in Amsterdam on 3 December. Content London International Television Exhibition, which runs from November 29 to December. 2, seems to have escaped the restrictions a bit, with most delegates arriving shortly before the UK introduced new travel restrictions requiring a negative PCR test for overseas immigrants. For those coming next, an on-site PCR testing site will provide same day results.

The Saudi Arabian Red Sea Film Festival, which kicks off on December 6, could become the first of many festivals to be canceled after Omicron. The inaugural event, which was originally scheduled for March 2020 but became one of the first cancellations in the first wave of COVID-19, hopes to welcome a significant number of African filmmakers, mostly from North Africa. Saudi Arabia has suspended flights from 14 South African countries, but has said people “from all countries” will be able to travel as long as they have received a dose of the vaccine. Festival guests are currently told they need vaccination tests and a recent negative PCR test to attend. That said, THR has heard from a director who would attend but has changed his mind due to omicron, citing concerns that travel bans will be extended to Saudi Arabia and he will not be able to return home.

The Berlin Film Festival is still planning to hold an event in person from 10-20 February 2022 with participants having to be fully vaccinated or prove they have recovered from a COVID infection. A Berlinale spokesman said The Hollywood Reporter that the festival was looking at other options for additional hygienic measures, including the requirement for negative COVID tests, capacity constraints, and stricter masking requirements.

“Rapid development of the number of infections [in Germany] it is certainly disturbing, so it is very important [the government is] taking into account further control measures “, she noted. “It goes without saying that we are closely monitoring further developments.”

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