China Suspends Film Shoots Across the Country as Coronavirus Epidemic Worsens

The largest film studio on the planet, China’s Hengdian World Studios, has announced it will shut down indefinitely, as productions in other parts of the country also announce they are closing up shop in light of the worsening coronavirus epidemic. 

On Monday, the local government management committee in charge of the experimental industrial zone where Hengdian is located in the coastal province of Zhejiang, south of Shanghai, announced that it was shutting down “in light of the current severe situation of prevention and control of the novel coronavirus and the request of various government departments to ‘cancel activities involving gatherings.’”

“Shoots are a personnel-intensive activity, which is likely to contribute to infections,” it said, saying that to ensure the safety of staff and crew, it was immediately shutting down all indoor and outdoor shooting locations and studios.”

The visitor-heavy shooting base had already announced Saturday that all its tourism sites would be temporarily closed.

At least 10 TV series and three films were being shot at Hengdian over the Chinese new year period. Among these was the “Tiny Times” franchise director Guo Jingming’s next film “Qing Yaji,” an adaptation of a novel from Japanese science-fiction writer Baku Yumemakura (“Onmyoji”).

Crews in other locations such as Ningbo, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing have also stopped work as well, according to Chinese reports.

TV dramas “Thank You, Doctor,” starring Yang Mi (“Tiny Times”) and “Like a Flowing River 2” have confirmed they’ve pulled the plug, as has “Mr. Crisis,” starring Tan Zhuo (“Dying to Survive,” “Story of Yanxi Palace”), among others.

“Mass halts to film crews across the country will become the norm, especially since KTVs, internet cafes, tourist sites and restaurants have all been shut down to help prevent the epidemic,” a Chinese commentary read. It predicted that if the epidemic continues, the number of productions taking place in China this year will be cut by at least a quarter.

A film starring Donnie Yen whose title roughly translates to “Polar Search and Rescue” also announced that though it had begun shooting in the Changbai Mountains in December, it has suspended work, after its investor expressed reservations about continuing due to coronavirus health concerns. The misfortune has already cost the investor more than $1 million, but the team won’t resume shooting until November because they need access to the region’s snowy winter scenery.

Speaking to Hong Kong media from the U.S., Yen said: “It’ll impact my work schedule, but the big picture is more important. I hope everyone can stay healthy.”

Reports predict the epidemic may continue up until at least May, meaning that production shutdowns will continue, disrupting shoots, post-production, broadcast schedules and actor schedules. Scores of crew members and actors, particularly on China’s massive film shooting bases, will also likely face temporary unemployment.