The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 15, 2020 1:00 am

Hollywood reaction to virus fast, furious

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – Coronavirus precautions were already popping up in Hollywood: “No handshakes or selfies” signs were posted outside the room where Vin Diesel was promoting his new movie. TV shows started taping without live audiences. South by Southwest, the sprawling film and music festival, was canceled outright.

That was before Wednesday night, when Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson told the world they had tested positive for coronavirus. By Thursday morning, everything had changed.

The entertainment industry went into full retreat. Productions were halted. Film releases, from “F9” to “Mulan,” were delayed. More festivals were canceled. There was not a sector of the entertainment business left untouched by the unprecedented decisions made Thursday to try to slow the spread of the virus.

The Hanks news “really marked a turning point,” said Richard Rushfield, the editor of the entertainment industry newsletter The Ankler.

“It sunk in that all production was going to have to cease,” he said.

“The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson, was the latest to announce it was suspending production on Saturday, at least for two weeks.

Now everyone is trying to mitigate the damage and move forward, but there are challenges everywhere. There are crews who suddenly don't have jobs.

“We are all struggling to wrap our heads around this,” said Lisa Schwartz, the co-president of IFC Films and Sundance Selects, which has begun leveraging its own streaming service, IFC Films Unlimited.

“It's been interesting to watch in the last two weeks an uptick in people seeking more in-home entertainment,” Schwartz said, adding the company is tailoring its social media advertising to reflect what people are talking about. “We're trying to remind people that there are ways to escape even if they are home-based.”

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