As large portions of the world go into lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many businesses have been left to fend for themselves. With many films delayed and production halted, people in the industry are having to fend for themselves.
No Films means no work
As people self isolate and socially distance themselves, many “non-essential” industries have completely shut down for the time being. With no one having a good estimate of how long this situation will last, this has left many people out of work indefinitely. The people hit hardest by this decision are the ones at the bottom. Many Crew, Freelancers, and cinema staff have themselves without a job, it’s hard to make a film from home!
While many people working in pre and post-production are able to at least do some work from home, actors, camera, lighting, sound crews are all having to fend for themselves. Much of the industry revolves around freelance work, with individuals often going from one job to another and few jobs being permanent. Fortunately, some companies, like Netflix, have set up hardship funds, as have the BFI.
The main issue is the amount of freelancers, as they are self-employed, if a job is cancelled they have no support, although the UK Government has stepped in. In Hollywood, it’s estimated around 120,000 people are out of work, while in the UK the number is closer to 50,000. This situation is different for everyone, as some freelancers will have worked more than others and be in better conditions to take a hit. As the pandemic has spread across the globe, many shoots have been delayed before lockdowns began. This has caused concern, as many of the measures only apply to workers affected by having work cancelled from March, while many jobs have been cancelled well before then. Additionally, as most of these are freelancers, there is no furlough option.
However the longer this goes on the more difficult it will be for freelancers to survive. When “normality” finally does return, the job hunt will likely be even more competitive than it already is, as everyone looks to secure work. It is an incredibly difficult industry to get in with very little long term employment. With the whole industry looking for work at the same time, it will likely be very difficult for less established workers to find work.
Future of Cinema
Likwise cinema staff cannot work from home, although audiences can still watch films at home. Even before countries were placed on lockdown, many cinemas pre-emptively closed due to advice to avoid large gatherings, in the UK. Several of these cinemas let these staff go without pay, a move that was understandbly controversial. This decision has since been reversed due to Government relief in the UK, however this is not the case in the US. With no support in place, AMC Theaters are “paying staff for as long as they can” potentially risking huge losses. While the large chain cinemas are clearly struggling, many smaller independent cinemas may not survive without help
As an added worry, a new study suggests that audiences may be less inclined to go back to the cinema after the pandemic subsides. With cleanliness and proximity to other people on audience’s minds, as well as a lack of summer blockbusters, it could be a while. Another factor to consider is streaming, which has been a concern to cinemas for several years. Some studios, like Universal are releasing some films straight to streaming, while still in theaters. It remains to be seen if this will remain in place once they do reopen
While cinemas are struggling, this whole situation is obviously good news for streaming services. Disney + launched in the UK, with it’s sign-ups tripling as more and more people are stuck indoors, and has even released films such as Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker months earlier than advertised. Meanwhile Netlfix may have to reduce the quality of it’s streaming in order to keep up with demand
These are certainly worrying times for everyone, whether in the film industry or not. But this period of uncertainty will help us appreciate the magic of cinema even more.