This image released by Universal Pictures shows Vin Diesel, left, and John Cena in a scene from "F9." Picture: Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Vin Diesel, left, and John Cena in a scene from "F9." Picture: Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP

The entertainment world just cancelled its spring season

By Steven Zeitchik Time of article published Mar 14, 2020

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A dizzying array of cancellations and postponements began to fly as Hollywood executives sought to limit public gatherings and protect employees in the wake of concerns about coronavirus.

High-profile films, Broadway shows and broadcast-network events have all been postponed or canceled as the entertainment business began to impose a "cancel-everything" policy on its events.

The film postponements included "A Quiet Place: Part II," a much-anticipated sequel due out next week, and "F9," the "Fast and Furious" sequel not scheduled until late May.

 Paramount pushed the former indefinitely; Universal staked out an April 2021 date for the latter, seeking to avoid any coronavirus-related backlog. (The "Fast" franchise has enjoyed past success in the spring.)

"It's become clear that it won't be possible for all of our fans around the world to see the film this May," Universal said of "F9" in a statement. "This move is made with the safety of everyone as our foremost consideration."

Broadway, which had been saying it would push forward with shows, finally said it would go dark as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, banned gatherings of 500 people or more. Broadway theaters, by definition, have at least that number of seats. The Broadway League gave April 12 as the date when shows could resume.

A raft of openings were scheduled for the coming weeks - Broadway's prime opening season is in March and April, ahead of Tonys voting. The news follows word that a Broadway usher has tested positive for the disease.

Meanwhile, CBS and NBC said they were each canceling their May "upfronts," where programmers present upcoming shows to advertisers in splashy presentations at high-profile New York venues.

"We'll miss Carnegie Hall and our agency dinners this year, but the health and safety of our clients and the ViacomCBS team comes first," said Jo Ann Ross, who runs the company's domestic Advertising Sales, referring to its well-known event. 

The company said it would move to a digital presentation. NBC soon followed with its own similar plan. ABC and Fox had yet to announce plans as of Thursday afternoon.

It remained to be seen if the networks, which have been looking to scale back on the expensive in-person presentations for years, would bring them back in 2021; many advertising experts believe this could be the out they have been looking for to cut back or modify these events, which arose in a bygone era of vast broadcast viewership and dollars.

The flurry of news shifts from what had been a series of live-event stoppages, as Coachella and the South by Southwest uber-festival had previously been canceled. Where it could yet pivot remains to be seen. With so little new product in theaters, it is an open question whether theaters would stay open; the new movies so far this spring include relatively small releases such as the Ben Affleck basketball drama "The Way Back." Many customers are also likely to stay home amid growing fears.

The cancellation news quickly eclipsed what had been the biggest Hollywood news in the previous 24 hours - the decision to end in-studio audiences for live shows. 

But executives throughout the cultural landscape have sought to move from crowd containment to protecting talent. The NBA made its decision almost immediately after Utah Jazz All-Star Rudy Gobert tested positive. The Hollywood news also happened as NCAA conferences and the NHL each said they were suspending play as the virus threat grew.

It was unclear if the late shows would continue shooting. The productions collectively employ thousands of people, with hundreds of them working long hours in close quarters.

In the meantime, some entertainment talent sought to allay the public's - and executives' - fears about the need to shut down events and postpone releases.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is that people have said our movie is one you have to see all together," "Quiet Place" director John Krasinski said in a statement. 

"Well due to the ever-changing circumstances of what's going on in the world around us, now is clearly not the right time to do that. As insanely excited as we are for all of you to see this movie... I'm gonna wait to release the film til we can all see it together! So here's to our group movie date! See you soon!"

The Washington Post

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