On Friday, Film at Lincoln Center executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing the organization would be furloughing or laying off half of its fifty-person full-time staff and all of its part-time employees, according to Variety. While continuing to provide health insurance for the furloughed full-timers, the company (which has published Film Comment since 1962) will release the May/June issue of the cinema and arts magazine digitally, after which time it will be placed on an indefinite hiatus. As per recommendations from the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control, the center already suspended its theater operations March 12.
The accelerated spread of Covid-19 is crippling the entertainment industry, perhaps more so than any other, because the theatergoing experience as we know it is already vulnerable from the advent of streaming services, according to Quartz. After all, studios, as well as production companies, own offices and sets all over the world, and you can’t work from home on a film shoot. While this year’s global box office is projected to underperform (having lost as much as five billion dollars so far), if movie theaters in China and other major markets remain closed all year, they may not open again.
With the coronavirus breaking out from China, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011), a thriller about an apocalyptic epidemic, has been downloaded enough times to crack the top ten of the UK iTunes movie rental chart, ranking it alongside more recent hits, according to The Guardian. The deadly virus in the film also originates out of China because of a bat, as more than one Twitter user have pointed out. This example of “life imitating art” calls to mind the three-day conference the Pentagon hosted with Hollywood screenwriters and producers after the September 11 attacks to brainstorm possible worst-case scenarios for future atrocities.