We suppose this was inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less unfortunate. It appears that Hollywood is beginning to shut down over concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus. Disney announced today that it is halting production on a number of films, including those under its 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures banners.
The live-action The Little Mermaid remake was due to begin filming in London in 10 days under the direction of Rob Marshall (Into the Woods), but that has been postponed. After halting first-unit photography, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is now fully shutting down in Australia. Also halting production is Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel starring Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, which was due to begin filming in Ireland soon. Guillermo del Toro’s Searchlight film Nightmare Alley has been shut down, as has the Disney+ reboot of Home Alone. Those involved are being sent home while they can ahead of the U.S. government’s partial travel ban, as the world waits to see how this coronavirus situation plays out and as social distancing becomes ever-more important.
Also being shut down are a number of films in pre-production, including Disney’s live-action Peter Pan redo Peter Pan & Wendy and the Disney+ Honey I Shrunk the Kids sequel Shrunk.
What remains to be seen is how long these shutdowns will last, and how that will affect the rollout down the road. Disney has already pulled the planned theatrical releases of Mulan, New Mutants, and Antlers over the course of the next month, so those films could conceivably fill gaps that arise later in the year. But these kinds of release calendars—especially for a studio as large as Disney—are planned with extreme precision. Scott was already rushing to get The Last Duel completed in time for its December awards season release, and Marvel’s effects-heavy Shang-Chi is due in theaters February 2021. Nightmare Alley doesn’t yet have a release date but Searchlight was no doubt hoping that film could potentially be completed for an awards season release later this year.
Of course these concerns pale in comparison to the potential loss of human life, and Disney has done the right thing here. And while they’re far from the first—a number of TV productions have already shut down—they certainly won’t be the last. How long until all ongoing film and TV shoots are halted? That will probably inevitably occur sooner rather than later.