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Future of cinema 'in doubt' due to coronavirus pandemic, NZ producer says

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is being labelled as a big problem not only for the film production companies but for the cinema industry also.

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Film Producer John Barnett says the future of movie theatres is very much in doubt. Source: Breakfast

Film and TV producer John Barnett says cinemas are in a "terrible state" as the virus outbreak delays production and releases of films around the globe.  

"It's not just hitting production, it's hitting exhibition, cinemas are in a terrible state, the future of cinema is very much in doubt."  

He says as production companies attempt to delay the release of blockbuster films due to fears over poor audience turn out, they run the risk of overcrowding the market later in the year. 

"When you talk about pictures not being released now, the point is how long can you hold them, if you wait till September there may be 200 other titles."  

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Generating nearly $3 billion in revenue each year for New Zealand, Mr Barnett says having films produced in New Zealand has had an "enormous impact".

"It's created a view about New Zealand which has been quite different ... in the past 20 years it's had an enormous impact about the way we feel about ourselves and the way the rest of the world sees us."  

The next James Bond film, No Time To Die, was intended to hit cinemas around the world in April but it was announced earlier this month that release date has been pushed back until late November. 

A Quiet Place 2 and the next Fast and Furious film releases have also been postponed while major blockbusters like Avatar's sequels have suspended production.  

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Mr Barnett believes the effective halt on production of content will likely result in thousands out of work around the world.  

"You could see a couple thousand people, just like that, out of work and there aren't other jobs yet, this is a big problem." 

He says local production companies are having to review how to keep production of shows like Shortland Street still running.  

Companies are having to look at all their procedures in order to ensure there is no risk of Covid-19 spreading on set.  

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John Barnett says the virus pandemic may also create a new way for cinemas to provide content, through streaming.  

"Tomorrow we could have films available for people to sit at home, go on to the theatre sight and watch it at home." 

He says by providing a way for Kiwis to stream new blockbuster films, it would allow cinemas to keep in operation and generating revenue even if their physical site may be closed.