Outside of California and New York, Georgia is the top film and TV production hub in the U.S. It also happens to be one of the first states to ease their COVID-19 shelter-in restrictions this weekend, with a number of businesses, including movie theaters, allowed to re-open on Monday, April 27.
The order does not include studio operations as part of the initial re-start, and there is still a limit on public gatherings, though, given the scope of businesses allowed to open their doors, that may not be too far down the line. I hear there has been some activity on some studio lots in Atlanta, so far limited to pickups and deliveries.
Even if Georgia relaxes its restrictions more to include film and TV production, Hollywood studios are not planning to take advantage of the opportunity any time soon as testing ramp-up in the U.S. is still lagging and no industry guidelines for resuming production safely have been set.
One of the biggest series on television, Netflix’s Stranger Things, was just starting filming its fourth season in Georgia when production was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. It remains on pause with no immediate plans to start prepping a return.
During Netflix’s earnings call yesterday, the company’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stressed that, regardless of states’ moves to ease restrictions, production on the streamer’s series and films can’t resume without rigorous testing. “We have to be able to look our employees and cast and crew in the eyes and say, ‘This is a safe place to work’,” he said. The company is working closely on assessments with production partners and local governments.
A producer who has a series based in Georgia was more blunt. “I will not endorse a Governor and put my cast and crew members in any situation without a significant degree of certainty that they will be safe,” the person said. “I don’t give a sh”t, I’m not gong.”
Even though movie theaters are included in the first rounds of re-openings in Georgia, they are not rushing to start operations either. The National Association of Theater Owners issued a statement today, underscoring that “while some states and localities are beginning to authorize the opening of movie theaters under certain conditions ” … “many theaters will not be able to feasibly open.”