It was in the latter days of the Berlin Film Festival, toward the end of February, that coronavirus became a staple of film-business small talk. “Do you think Cannes will go ahead?” we started asking, as if the French festival’s cancellation three months ahead was the imaginable limit of the ruptures to come. Life comes at you fast, as the saying goes.
A few days later, the first coronavirus-related bombshell came from Hollywood: the long-awaited, long-delayed new James Bond blockbuster No Time to Die was booted from its scheduled release in early April, and put back seven months to the supposedly safe date of 12 November. The producers’ official statement made no mention of the pandemic, referring only to “a thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace” – the coyness seems quaint now.
The 007 franchise has not been renowned for innovation over the years, but in this case, it proved decidedly ahead of the curve. Well before cinemas started closing internationally, studios and distributors started pulling their wares from the spring cinema schedule – from vast Disney blockbusters (Black Widow) to bijou BFI-backed indies (Saint Maud).
By the end of March, the weekly release slate looked as bare as the average supermarket pasta shelf. Only streaming behemoths like Ne…
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