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End of Week Production Notes 10/9/20: Oscars Allow Drive-Ins, NYC Closures Won’t Affect Productions and More


In a sad week where many music lovers were mourning the death of legendary rock guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, there seemed to be an equal amount of good and bad news in terms of global film and TV production.

Before we get to that news, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that it would allow movies that played at drive-in screenings for a week (only one showing per today necessary) would be allowed eligibility for the Oscars. It also reiterated that movies that were intended for theatrical release but instead went to streaming or VOD would still be eligible as long as the films are available on the Academy Screening Room within two months of said release.

This week, New York City has been closing down certain sections of Brooklyn and Queens as part of Governor Cuomo’s Cluster Action Initiative, which involves shutting down non-essential businesses in three specific areas to prevent the spread of COVID clusters. Fortunately, none of the three major production studios: Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios, Queens’ facility Kaufman Astoria, nor Silver Cup in Long Island City, will be affected by the shut-down in other regions of the city, which would include shutting down production if those COVID clusters aren’t contained. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) clarified the rules of the different zones, Commissioner Anna del Castillo stating, “Our city is at a crucial moment in the fight against COVID-19, and we appreciate your ongoing efforts to support a safe recovery.”

No indoor or outdoor production will be allowed in the city’s “Red Zones,” only outdoor production will be allowed in “Orange Zones,” while “Yellow Zones” will still allow indoor and outdoor production.

Photo: Netflix

Possibly one of the most shocking TV series cancellations from the past few months came earlier this week when Netflix announced it was cancelling the popular women’s wrestling comedy seriesGLOW, after previously renewing the show for a fourth season. The show won a number of Emmys in its first two seasons, as well as two Golden Globe nominations, but presumably the added cost and precautions needed to make a show that involves close physical contact were too high. (Oddly, the WWE that helped popularize wrestling has kept its multiple wrestling shows going almost through the entire pandemic.)

Similarly, Showtime had already renewed the Kirsten Dunst series On Becoming a God in Central Florida last September, but the cable network is following Netflix’s lead by cancelling the show’s second season. In a statement, Showtime said:

“Last year, Showtime renewed On Becoming A God In Central Florida but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to move forward with production on the new season. The pandemic has continued to challenge schedules across the board, and although we have made every effort to reunite the cast and crew for a second season, that has become untenable. It is with great regret that we are acknowledging On Becoming a God will not return. We extend our deepest thanks to star and executive producer Kirsten Dunst, creators Robert Funke and Matt Lusky, showrunner Esta Spalding and their fellow executive producers George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Charlie McDowell, the terrific cast and crew, and our partners at Sony Pictures Television.”

The two shows join a long list of series that were renewed in better times, i.e. before the COVID pandemic, but have now been axed mainly due to the added cost and conditions needed to make the shows under COVID protocols.

There’s a pleasantly positive story over on Variety about the safeguards being taken on the 7th Mission: Impossible movie as production shifted to Western Norway for six weeks, joining recently-delayed tentpoles Black WidowDune and No Time To Die, all which filmed in the Scandinavian region.  The country has offered competitively desirable tax incentives through the Norwegian Film Initiative while also lifting travel restrictions for film and TV productions that take advantage of that initiative.

Director Christopher McQuarrie took to Instagram to thank the Norwegian crew after filming a scene with Tom Cruise on the Orient Express. The production has since moved on to Rome, Italy.

The Variety story includes an interesting interview with the production’s Norwegian COVID-19 Supervisor Jostein Brå Oksavik, who told them that the Norwegian COVID-19 crew “consisted of more than 10 employees, supporting the British crew of several nurses and medics led by Rachel Westcott from World Extreme Medicine.” You can read that full interview over on Variety.

The Morning Show
Photo: Apple TV+

One of the initial Apple TV+ series that has received the most acclaim (and even an Emmy win last month) is The Morning Show, starring Reese WitherspoonJennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, and it’s being reported by Deadline that the series is gearing up to start production on Season 2. Carell, who only signed a one-year contract, is expected to come back, as well as recent Emmy-winner Billy CrudupMark DuplassNestor CarbonellBel Powley and others. The show was filming the first two episodes of the second season when production shut down due to COVID in March, and it has a tentative October 19 date to restart production in New York.

Resident Evil
Photo: Screen Gems

Constantin Film is preparing the next chapter in the Resident Evil franchise, or rather, the first chapter, since the next movie will be a prequel origin story with a whole new cast. Kaya ScodelarioHannah John-Kamen (Ant-Man and the Wasp), Robbie Amell (The Flash), Tom Hopper, Avan Jogia and Neal McDonough have all signed on to the movie being written and directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down).  Scodelario, Amell and John-Kamen will play Claire and Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, respectively, all of them being popular characters from the Capcom horror video game.  The film is scheduled to start filming in Ontario next week.

You can learn more about upcoming production status by subscribing to Below the Line‘s Production Listings.

Speaking of horror, actor Steven Lang (Avatar) reported over social media that he had finished filming on the horror sequel, reportedly titled Don’t Breathe Again, in which he plays the “Blind Man” whose house is invaded by kids not realizing how deadly its resident is. The film was shot in Belgrade in Serbia and apparently, is almost finished with all filming.

The other big news of the week was a number of major tentpoles planned for 2020 and 2021 release being delayed, beginning with  Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune, which was supposed to be released on December 18 but has now been moved all the way back to October 1, 2021. That move forced Warner Bros. to move most of its DC Entertainment and other potential blockbusters, including Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, which moved to March 4, 2022. In turn, The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, moved from June 2022 to November 2022, pushing the Shazam! sequel from November 22 to March 2023. A few films like Dwayne Johnson‘s Black Adam and a long-in-development movie based on the popular Minecraft video game have been removed from the release schedule entirely. The only movie that benefited from the shifting dates was Lana Wachowski‘s 4th The Matrix movie, which will now open on December 22, 2021, rather than in April of 2021.

Even before production was shut down for two weeks due to positive COVID testing, Colin Trevorrow‘s Jurassic World: Dominion was delayed an entire year to June 10, 2022, maybe because Universal PicturesF9 is now opening over Memorial Day 2021, a full year after its originally-planned release date. I guess Universal is perfectly fine only having one major tentpole movie per summer, although it does have a few other movies scheduled for next year, including Minions 2.

COVID is affecting everyone, even NBC‘s venerable Saturday Night Live, which returned to Studio 8H last week for its first show of the new season. The show has already run into COVID-related troubles, as country musician Morgan Wallen, the planned musical guest for tomorrow night’s show, announced he was told by the show that he couldn’t appear due to the show’s COVID protocols.  Apparently, Wallen was seen on TikTok partying and kissing fans in Tuscaloosa while celebrating the University of Alabama’s football victory. The singer was already in New York when he was informed.  Instead, musician Jack White will be returning to the show as its musical performer on Saturday, which will still be hosted by comedian Bill Burr.

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Photo: Trilith

Also, in case you missed it earlier this weekPinewood Atlanta Studios, the Georgia production facility, is reinventing itself, changing its name to “Trilith” and extending into a 935-acre residential community that includes houses, restaurants and even its own schools.

A minor item from this past week was the report that Marc Forster, director of Finding Neverland and World War Z , had signed on to direct Thomas and Friends, a live action/animation hybrid based on the popular children’s television character, Thomas the Tank Engine.

David Fincher‘s anticipated Netflix movie Mank, starring Gary Oldman as Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, will hit the streamer on December 4, but only after getting a theatrical release sometime in November. You can watch the first teaser trailer for the movie below:

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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