As COVID-19 increasingly decimates cinema going in Europe and threatens film and TV shoots, the continent is noting the first signs of an uptick in virus-related productions and sales on contagion titles.
A flutter of business underscores, however, the perception of a market demand for reliable information about contagion rather than any general boom in virus entertainment.
In one move, independent factual distributor TVF International announced Wednesday that it has licensed Channel NewsAsia’s TV special “Coronavirus: The Silent Killer” to Bild in Germany, Al Jazeera Middle-East, Yes DBS Israel, HRT Croatia, and Discovery Channel in Asia.
Assessing the Chinese government’s response to the outbreak, and the difficulties of preventing a global pandemic, “The Silent Killer” has several other broadcasters interested, TVF reported.
Breaking down the latest scientific developments in the fight against COVID-19, “Race Against the Pandemic” will be delivered in April.
On Thursday, U.K.-based distributor Magnify Media announced news sales on Rare TV’s award-winning documentary “Contagion,” a one-hour special originally commissioned by BBC Four, airing in 2018. Retransmitted on the U.K. public broadcaster in February, it has since then been picked up by TV4 in Sweden, NRK in Norway, RSI in Switzerland, TRT in Turkey, PTS in Taiwan and RTHK in Hong Kong.
Both TVF and Magnify stressed the need for their documentaries to be seen by broader audiences. “This is not only an intelligent and informative documentary, but it’s also a timely one in the light of the misinformation and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus,” said Magnify Media CEO Andrew Jackson.
“TVF International has an extensive track record in investigative current affairs and science programming which provides special insight into important issues,” Julian Chou-Lambert, acquisitions manager at TVF International, said in like vein.
Sold by the U.K.’s Jinga Films, “Infection” is contagion entertainment, a rabies virus zombie movie acquired by Dark Sky Films for U.S. distribution, Jinga announced on Wednesday.
“Infection” has also been acquired for distribution by Tema (Spain), Cinema Novo (Portugal), New Select (Japan), MovieCloud (Taiwan) and First Wave (Vietnam).
But there are zombie films and then there are zombie films. First developed by Venezuelan filmmaker Flavio Pelota in 2015, the film is an upscale, well-turned out thriller as a doctor father desperately searches for his son in the countryside outside Caracas, which plays like political allegory of recent Venezuela, a country where social order is breaking down, endangered by mindless dolts preying on Venezuelans and the only hope is for foreign government intervention.
What “Infection” does have are scenes of excruciating tension, “28 Weeks Later” style, as its protagonists run in a panic-funk across fields pursued by cannibals.
The U.S. deal was on the boil since last Cannes Festival, way before COVID-19, Jinga Films CEO Julian Richards told Variety.
That said, he has “received lots of recent interest from distributors.” That’s to be expected, he argued.
“I’ve noticed on Facebook people jokingly listing virus pandemic titles like ‘Mask of the Red Death.’ ’28 Days Later,’ ‘Contagion,’ which they’re planning to watch on digital imprisoned in their homes,” Richards said.
“What genre can do is to allow people to explore their anxiety, but from the safety of fiction,” he added.
Whether this is enough to spark any kind of European fiction contagion title build remains to be seen.