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Terror traps London

Ripple effect rocks showbiz as city shuts down

This article was updated at 6:32 p.m.

LONDON — A numbed London came to a standstill Thursday in the wake of four terrorist attacks on the city’s transport system that killed dozens of people and left 700-plus injured.

Cinemas, legit theaters, restaurants and pubs shut down, as buses and trains were halted and the most pressing pursuits were checking on loved ones, getting home and watching the extensive coverage on TV. The main channels ditched programming for rolling news coverage, and commercial stations held advertising for part of the day.

It’s been an intense week for the U.K. Saturday’s Live 8 concert in central London’s Hyde Park and the G8 conference in Gleneagles, Scotland, brought the world’s attention to the country along with Wednesday’s celebrated announcement that London would host the 2012 Olympics.

TV news items showing the gleeful faces of Olympic revelers in Trafalgar Square were replaced Thursday by the grim news of the bombs placed on one bus and close to three underground rail stations, with reports of 38 dead.

Stateside, coverage was around the clock and around the dial. In primetime, ABC pulled the movie “Reign of Fire” from its Thursday night schedule. The 2002 movie, starring Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey, takes place in a post-apocalyptic London. It was replaced with the more benign feature “Big Fat Liar.”

Breaking-news focus

Alphabet web also scrapped its previously planned “Primetime Live” features at 10 p.m. and spent the newsmag’s hour covering the London attacks.

Back in Blighty, the two main terrestrial channels, pubcaster BBC1 and commercial station ITV1, abandoned their daytime lineups soon after 10 a.m. — within an hour or so of the first of three explosions in the London Underground.

ITV1 switched over to the rolling news channel ITV News; BBC1 switched to its News 24 service.

Those on duty included BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, who was seriously injured after being shot six times by gunmen in Saudi Arabia a year ago.

A BBC report at 11:32 a.m. saying that Arab sources had told the BBC that the attacks were “almost certainly the work of al-Qaida” was based on information Gardner obtained from contacts.

As the details of the bombings continued to unfold, afternoon kid shows were shifted to niche webs. Something resembling normal service resumed at around 7 p.m. on BBC1 and ITV1, but more extended news coverage was planned.

On Channel 4 and Five, additional news coverage was provided by ITN and Sky News, respectively.

Theaters close

London’s movie exhibition sector shuttered as one exhib exec stated, “People are scared stiff of going into the West End.”

With transport so severely disrupted, a trip into town for cinemagoers was not an option. However, buses were running again by the early evening, while some Underground trains are expected to be back on track today.

Exhibs accept that blasts will dent weekend biz. It’s a double whammy for “War of the Worlds,” in its soph sesh: Exhibs feel Saturday’s biz was hurt by the televised Live 8 concerts.

However, it has been trading well on excellent word of mouth and bookers predict a dropoff of 35%-38%.

“Security in auditoriums will become more of an issue. It can’t be long now until all bags are checked,” noted one exhib. Crowded theaters remain a target for terrorist attacks. Bookers also report problems with the delivery of prints to theaters.

‘Entering’ unaffected

The only major feature shooting on location in central London is Miramax/Weinstein Co.’s “Breaking and Entering.”

The Anthony Minghella-helmed pic suffered no real disruption, although the storyline is set in the King’s Cross area, the scene of one of the explosions, according to Colin Vaines, Miramax/Weinstein Co.’s European production topper.

Vaines added that there had been concern about a crew member who had been close to the bus blast, but he turned out to be fine.

“The decision was taken from the top to carry on with shooting,” said Vaines. “In a way, it’s appropriate that a film about people of many races working together in London should go on. If you surrender and stop working, then the people who do these things have won.”

Pic wasn’t shooting in King’s Cross this week, but further north in Primrose Hill, away from the main areas of disruption.

Woody Allen’s latest U.K.-set movie, although based at Ealing Studios in London, is shooting in Oxfordshire this week and thus avoided the attacks. Untitled comedy, starring Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman and Ian McShane, started lensing June 27.

The city’s legit theaters were dark, with performances canceled as far afield as Shakespeare’s Globe toward the southeast of the capital and west London’s Lyric Hammersmith as well as across the West End.

Program persists

In a virtually isolated instance of the show preparing to go on, the three-venue National Theater canceled performances in its two largest venues, the Lyttelton and the Olivier, but the small Cottesloe went ahead with its Shell Connections, a program of work by professional writers performed by students from around the country.

“All the young people are here; they’re staying three minutes away,” said an NT spokesman.

The producers of “Chicago,” with Brooke Shields, waited until well into the afternoon to cancel its 8 p.m. performance at the Adelphi Theater.

The Royal Opera House pulled the plug on the evening performance of Verdi’s “Otello.” “There are no tube services, bus services and severely restricted services on main line trains,” said chief exec Tony Hall in a statement. “Getting staff, artists and audiences to the Opera House and home again is just not feasible.”

“Billy Elliot — The Musical” and “Mary Poppins” were among hit shows that had Thursday matinees, meaning the loss of two lucrative perfs. Ditto Shakespeare’s Globe, which has a two-show Thursday.

Of particular interest will be the mood at the Royal Court when perfs resume on their current production, the all-too-aptly titled “Talking to Terrorists.”

R.E.M. and Queen have postponed their weekend gigs. Queen has reskedded its Hyde Park perf to July 15.

(Adam Dawtrey, Steve Clarke and Leo Barraclough contributed to this report.)

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