The cancellation of SXSW on March 6 due to the coronavirus epidemic sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry. But in truth it was the culmination of weeks of mounting anxiety — in executive suites and corporate boardrooms, on studio lots, across television and film sets, at red-carpet premieres and in multiplexes and concert venues — that has left Hollywood fearfully staring into an abyss of uncertainty.
No conversation, it seems, is complete without at least some reference to a public health crisis so widespread and world-altering that it could have been the plot of a blockbuster thriller. And actually, it was — 2011’s “Contagion,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, became one of the most rented movies on iTunes last week. But now, it’s all too terribly real, with 4,262 reported deaths worldwide, and 118,583 confirmed cases — at least, as of press time. Those numbers will have increased by the time this story is published.
Much as the spread of the virus now referred to as COVID-19 has been staggered across the globe, so has the reaction to it. Parts of Asia have been on lockdown for weeks, Italy recently shut down the entire nation and several European countries have also seriously considered lockdowns. Despite the cancellation of major communal events, the U.S. remains largely in a nervous, wait-and-see posture, with everyday business certainly interrupted but still moving forward.