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‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Release in China Postponed Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Theaters across China remain closed as epidemic continues

Paramount Pictures announced on Monday that the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” in China has been indefinitely postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues to keep movie theaters and other businesses across the country closed.

“As the whole country and world unite together to fight the outbreak of coronavirus, we would like to express our gratitude and respect to all the medical staff, the rescue personnel, and people in service who provide us with much-needed assistance and support during this time,” read a statement from Paramount.

“Sonic the Hedgehog” has been the most successful film for Paramount in over a year, setting a new record for video game adaptations with a $58 million domestic opening weekend. After two weekends in theaters worldwide, the film has grossed $106.6 million in North America and $203.1 million worldwide.

But release of the film in Asian markets where the SEGA video game icon is well known has been held back by the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected tens of thousands of people in China. Health officials in the country have reported over 77,000 cases with nearly 2,600 people killed. An additional 2,000+ cases have been reported in other countries, with major outbreaks occurring in Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

The coronavirus first began to spread a month ago during the start of the Lunar New Year, a holiday period that is critical to the Chinese economy but especially to movie theaters, which only screen Chinese-produced films by government mandate and see the highest audience turnout during the season. Last year, combined revenue on the first day of Lunar New Year set a new single-day record for the market, and grosses for the entire period came in at approximately $835 million.

But in response to advisement from health officials, nearly all of China’s movie theaters have remained closed for the past month, costing exhibitors billions in ticket and concessions revenue. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” which was scheduled for release this Friday, was set to be the first major Hollywood import in China after the Lunar New Year period ended. Aside from “Sonic,” no other Hollywood blockbusters, including Disney’s expected megahit remake of “Mulan,” had received a release date.

The epidemic has also had an impact on Paramount’s production plans, as filming for the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film with Tom Cruise in Italy has been postponed due to an outbreak there this past weekend. More than 200 cases and five deaths have been reported there, the highest of any country in Europe.