Sony’s “The Nightingale,” starring Dakota and Elle Fanning, and an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” fantasy series, produced by Sony and Amazon Studios, and starring Rosamund Pike, are the latest projects to be hit by the growing spread of coronavirus, with both productions’ European shoots disrupted this week.
Pre-production on “The Nightingale,” from Sony label TriStar Pictures, has been suspended for two weeks in Budapest, while the Prague shoot of “Wheel of Time” was halted, as Central Europe’s biggest production hubs scramble to deal with the fallout of the global pandemic.
Amazon Studios film “Birds of Paradise” has also suspended production in Budapest.
“This is obviously a spanner in the works,” said Matthew Stillman of Stillking Films, who said both Hungary and the Czech Republic were “operating at capacity” before coronavirus began sweeping across Europe. “This is effectively a temporary interruption, but we don’t know how long it’s going to go on for. We’re all a little bit in the dark.”
Just hours after Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis declared a 30-day state of emergency on Thursday, shuttering cinemas, theaters, gyms and other venues, canceling public gatherings of more than 30 people, and banning foreign nationals from 15 countries, his government stepped up its measures Friday afternoon, announcing that it was effectively sealing the country’s borders as of March 16, barring all foreign nationals from entering the country and residents from leaving.
Hungary’s government meanwhile declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, shutting university campuses and banning large gatherings to combat the spread of the virus, which has been confirmed in 19 people in the Central European nation as of Friday.
The Hungarian government has banned incoming travel from Italy, China, South Korea and Iran, and tightened controls along the borders with Austria and Slovenia. The ban on public gatherings affects outdoor events with more than 500 participants and indoor events with more than 100, including cinemas, theaters and nightclubs.
“They want to get ahead of it as much as they can, rather than find themselves in a position like Italy,” said Adam Goodman, of Mid Atlantic Films in Budapest, referring to the country as the hardest hit by the pandemic outside of China.
Hungary is the second biggest production hub in Europe, after the U.K., and in the past year has hosted such high-profile productions as Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi tentpole “Dune,” and the Netflix fantasy series “The Witcher” and “Shadow and Bone.” Recent shoots in the Czech Republic include the TBS comedy series “Miracle Workers,” the ABC drama “Whiskey Cavalier” and the Netflix series “Freud.”
Earlier in the week, Disney announced it was halting the Prague shoot of the upcoming Disney Plus series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” an “Avengers” spin-off starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, over coronavirus fears.
On Thursday, Orlando Bloom took to Instagram to announce that production in the Czech capital on the second season of Amazon’s “Carnival Row” was also on hiatus, with the star telling his followers in a video, “It’s farewell from us as we’re going home to be quarantined.”
The reaction by the Czech government to the escalating threat posed by the coronavirus has been “quick and efficient” in recent days, according to Stillman, though he added that “where they go from here is not clear.
“There’s lots of short-term measures that are in place,” he said. “But they’re national solutions to an international problem. The issues are much bigger than we can deal with. They’re international medical and geopolitical issues that you can’t deal with in the local sector. We’re subject to greater forces, and we’ll just have to see how they play out.”
The reaction from Hollywood has also been swift. “The U.S. studios are taking an appropriate risk-averse position…to protect both the local crew and the foreign crew,” said Goodman. “It’s our hope that those shows will return in a few weeks, or in a few months, depending on the geopolitical climate…. But there is so much uncertainty that no one can say, ‘We’re going to re-up on this date at this time.’”
For the time being, studios and crews in both countries will remain in a holding pattern. “In principle, the local infrastructure is all there and ready to go. That can restart within a few days,” said Stillman. “We’ve had interruptions before. Crews and production are pragmatic by nature. There’s no problem on that level.
“On the macro level, and how long it’s going to take to deal with these issues, restore confidence, restore travel confidence, restore corporate confidence and people allowing their [employees] to do things in different places, that is more significant….However long it’s going to be, we don’t know.”