Coronavirus Scare Hits Movie Business
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
Two faith-based films are certain to be among the box office casualties.
There are 183,000-plus infections and 7,100 deaths worldwide attributed to the coronavirus as of this reading. The ripple effect has spread far and wide, closing national borders, rattling global financial markets and prompting the closure, among others, of academic institutions, sports leagues, eateries and now movie theaters.
America's two largest chains, AMC and Regal, will shut their doors for up to 12 weeks as a precautionary measure. And if one were to believe the worst case scenario predictions for the virus, it's hard to argue with such steps. For what it's worth, we do not believe them, and having been in journalism at the national and international level for decades, we think many of our Fourth Estate brethren are guilty of whipping up hysteria in their coverage of this story, particularly in light of the paltry numbers in the U.S: 4,600 infected and 85 dead in a nation of 320-plus million people, as of this morning.
This, however, is not the venue for that debate, so we will stick to the matter at hand, which is the impact on the film industry. Many big-budget, secular productions - No Time to Die, A Quiet Place Part II and Mulan, to name but a few - have had their release dates pushed back in an effort to avoid their turning into financial casualties of this virus scare. At least two Christian productions are also in the firing line.
With this being St. Patrick's Day, a new docudrama about the man behind the holiday was to debut. I Am Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland stars John Rhys-Davies and was scheduled for a two-day Fathom Event run today and tomorrow. This morning, however, the folks at Fathom scuppered it, citing the coronavirus and stating that a new release date will be announced later.
I Still Believe, a biopic about Christian musician Jeremy Camp, is in a much trickier position. The latest project from the brother duo of Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, and the first movie from their new Kingdom Studios arrangement with Lionsgate, it debuted over the weekend, claiming third place at the U.S. box office. With huge numbers of theaters now closed for weeks, its status is uncertain. Come what may, what is certain is that this situation will not help the movie's financial performance.
There are no other faith-based films planning to debut on the near horizon, so there's a chance things will normalize before the next batch is due out. In the meantime, our word of encouragement to anyone experiencing anxiety because of the coronavirus is to follow Jesus' exhortation throughout the Gospels - particularly in Mark chapters 4, 5 and 6 - to fear not. Remember: we serve a loving and merciful God and our fate is in His hands.