But if theaters were forced to close at any other time of the year, studios would stand to lose much more than they are now.

Many studios rely on their major “tentpole” releases—many of which come out during the summer and holiday months—to prop up the rest of the schedule. Those blockbusters are what allow Hollywood companies to subsidize everything else. Without them, studios could literally go bankrupt.

Disney, as the industry leader in the tentpole strategy, would be hit particularly hard. The same strategy that has helped the company dominate the global box office could also be what makes them more susceptible than their competitors to the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Between all of its division, Disney only has nine films scheduled to be released theatrically this year. Two of them have already been impacted by coronavirus: Onward, the Pixar film released earlier this month, has had anemic ticket sales due to all the theater closures around the world. And Mulan, which was scheduled to come out this month—and expected to do quite well in China—was indefinitely postponed.

Five more Disney blockbusters are scheduled for release between May and August. The one most imminent is the Marvel film Black Widow, which is scheduled for release May 1 and could be the next potential blockbuster to be postponed:

Huge movies like the James Bond film No Time to Die, F9, and A Quiet Place: Part II have already been postponed by their studios, which have lost tens of millions of dollars on nonrefundable ad campaigns. But the costs of rescheduling these films, while substantial, still pale in comparison to the potential loss in ticket sales if they were to come out in the next few weeks as originally planned.

June was expected to be an especially big month for blockbusters this year. Four of the five major Hollywood studios have at least one tentpole planned for release then: Warner Bros. (Wonder Woman 1984 and In the Heights), Disney (Soul), Universal (Candyman), and Paramount (Top Gun: Maverick). With countries on lockdown and major US cities like New York and Los Angeles closing theaters, these movies may not be able to keep their June release dates. Studios don’t have very long before they have to decide what’s next.

In the unlikely (but possible) event the summer blockbuster season is cancelled, the lost box office revenue would, in the best case, force Hollywood studios to lay off workers, restructure their organizations, and seriously reevaluate their future release schedules. Some companies might never recover. At worst, several of Hollywood’s biggest companies would have to close up shop, or sell their remaining assets to whichever competitor was left standing. Hollywood can survive a March without movies. Whether or not it can survive a June or July without them is much less clear.

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