Industry sources said it made no sense to proceed with plans for a week-long showcase of new programs for international buyers at a time when travel to and from the United States is increasingly restricted. The LA Screenings has long been organized by a loose coalition of major studios, who each host a day of screenings for dozens of buyers who flock in from around the world.
The studios that spearhead the screenings — Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, ViacomCBS and Warner Bros. — said they were exploring alternative options for the annual program showcase. Most of the traditional upfront events are shifting to some form of streaming format for a virtual presentation.
“It is out of an abundance of caution, and with the health and well-being of our clients and employees at the forefront, we have collectively decided to not hold L.A. Screenings events this year and will instead explore alternative options in which to showcase our respective upcoming content,” the group said in a collective statement.
“While we look forward to hosting our clients at this time-honored industry event, in acknowledgement of – and out of respect for – the travel bans, travel restrictions and evolving public health concerns of our global client base, we believe that not having our clients and executives travel into Los Angeles from various locations around the world is the most responsible course of action. Each major U.S. international TV distributor will be individually communicating its alternative screening plans to clients soon.”
The event has typically been held in mid-May in the week following the major network upfront presentations in New York. Some buyers for major territories overseas make it a two-week visit, starting in New York and finishing out for the beginning of the buying conversations on studio lots in the Los Angeles area. But not this year.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a seismic disruption to the entertainment industry. On Wednesday night CinemaCon, the annual gathering in Las Vegas of global movie theater owners, was canceled. Thursday saw multiple disruptions, with Broadway movie theaters shuttering; premieres of multiple films being delayed; closures of theme parks; and the cancellation of multiple broadcast upfront presentations and the Tribeca Film Festival. Also on Thursday the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons; and multiple companies including Netflix, Amazon, and NBCUniversal advised employees to begin working from home until further notice. The actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson revealed Wednesday that they have been infected with the virus.