Reopening Hollywood: First major movie to be released since coronavirus lockdown

Greg Milam, US correspondent
A shuttered Paramount Pictures in Hollywood

The makers of the first major movie to be released since the coronavirus lockdown have told Sky News it is the "canary in the coal mine" for an entertainment industry looking to reopen.

The film Unhinged, a road rage thriller starring Russell Crowe, will hit cinema screens in the US on 1 July, months earlier than originally planned. It bucks the trend of films being delayed or released instead on television and streaming services.

Almost a million TV and film workers are estimated to have lost their jobs in Hollywood alone after productions were shut down as the virus spread.

Talks have begun over how to safely resume.

Mark Gill, president of Solstice Studios which has made Unhinged, said he had been encouraged by polls showing movie-goers were keen to return to cinemas.

He told Sky News: "We are most definitely the canary in the coal mine. We have some reasonable confidence that theatres will be open, but there's a risk. If things go wrong and public health departments need to shut things down, they should and they will."

He said the release of Unhinged was receiving worldwide attention because it offered hope. "This is one of those steps that we all need to take toward getting back to normal."

The lockdown has seen a boom in creative ideas from the TV industry to keep audiences entertained.

Like many in Hollywood, British actors Sean Maguire and Rebecca Mader, who starred together in the US fantasy drama Once Upon A Time, would usually be auditioning for the annual pilot season. Instead they have created their own YouTube show, At Home With Sean And Bex.

Mader, who also starred in Lost, said: "Imagine if this had been 20 years ago, we wouldn't have had the same way to entertain ourselves and be connected.

"I think it's going to be really fun for artists to realise that they can create their own content at home and not just sit there and wait for the phone to ring, or be told by a producer or a network that they are good enough."

Former EastEnders star Maguire said viewers will continue to see an impact of the lockdown.

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He said: "What you can't do is rush scripted content. There is a process you can't just gallop through to catch up so people will just have to understand there's going to be a little bit of a gap in the market before their favourite shows and movies can resume.

"I think the industry will look different when we're finished."

Even the very basics of production will need to change.

"What happens when you have to kiss someone in a scene? It is a really intimate business," said Mader.

The lockdown has generated huge television demand among viewers stuck at home and experts predict they will see a knock-on effect as broadcasters begin to run out of shows later this year.

Netflix has already resumed production in places like South Korea and Iceland. The city of Los Angeles has created working groups to assess when it can resume in a place regarded as the entertainment capital of the world.