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How Covid-19 has hit the global movie industry

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Who would have thought the death-defying British secret agent with the ‘licence to kill’ would beat a hasty retreat in the face of a virus? The shock announcement that the 25th installment of the iconic spy franchise directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, that was expected to release this November, has been delayed to April 2021, has no doubt come as jolt for Bond fans. After all what could have been more cathartic in the midst of a world-wide fight against a viral enemy lurking in familiar surroundings than watching our all-time favourite action hero with a demeanour that could give an ice sculpture a complex, embarking on another high-risk mission to save the world. Except the villain, in real life, is not the icy Rami Malek, mouthing (to Bond): ‘We both eradicate people. To make the world a better place. I just want to be a little. tidier.’

We, of course, need our world to be a better place and for that to pan out, we all need to sit tight in our personal bubbles, wash our hands with an obsession that would be the envy of Lady Macbeth and don our personal armour of mask and gloves.

So even if die-hard fans were planning to step into their heavily sanitised local theatres, masks firmly in place, sorry, Mr Bond has taken a rain check. 

In the wake of the relentless spread of the coronavirus, and with many theatres worldwide shut to contain its further spread by ensuring strict social distancing measures, No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last outing as the suave spy, is not the only blockbuster to shy away from the big screen. Many others, including Warner Bros.’ The Batman and Marvel’s Black Widow, have ruefully stuffed their superhero costumes back into the cupboard and decided to sit out the virus.  

Bond’s delayed release could well be the death knell for many in the theatre business. Recently, the world’s second largest cinema chain, Cineworld, announced the temporary closure of Regal Cinemas due to the dearth of regular big screen releases as well as poor business in the aftermath of the pandemic.  

Since time immemorial, blockbuster movies with high-octane car chases, and vertigo-inducing action sequences, have been entertaining masses across the world. While OTT releases have ensured homebound viewers still have access to high-quality content, it’s the testosterone-driven films helmed by ridiculously good-looking muscle men, which propel theatre business. These need to be necessarily released in multiplexes and viewed by the masses in order to recover their humongous cost of production. 

With New York theatres, which account for a huge cross section of blockbuster cinema crowd, being shut and may others running at half capacity, looks like the day of reckoning has dawned. 

The failure of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller, Tenet, to draw in crowds, was a harbinger of trouble. Even Disney’s live-action Mulan, that was expected to open up the theatres for bigger extravagant scripts, was offered as a VOD add-on to Disney+ subscribers.

With The Matrix jumping back to a 2021 release date and Shazam 2 pushed ahead to 2023, it looks like Hollywood superheroes are not in the mood to take on the virus. 

Unfortunately for those in the business, it is a Catch-22 situation – if you release a blockbuster right now, the takings may not account for even the pay of the lead stars, but even as movies like Bond choose to wait out the pandemic, and for a vaccine to come out, many of these theatres might not be around in the near future.

“If we don’t do this, there will be nothing left to save,” as Bond deadpans in the action-packed trailer of the latest instalment that has been teasing fans for a while now. Ironically, even for a daredevil like James Bond, this is No Time To Die. –[email protected]