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WIRE Buzz: Harry Potter producer lands The Beast and Bethany; AMC begins 'social distancing'; more

By Jacob Oller
David Heyman Getty

One of the most prominent figures behind the Harry Potter film franchise has found a new YA novel to adapt. David Heyman, the man who acquired the rights to J.K. Rowling's magical series and produced all eight main films before continuing onto the Fantastic Beasts spinoff franchise, is now moving on to The Beast and Bethany.

Variety reports that Heyman will partner with Warner Bros. on the film adapted from Jack Meggitt-Phillips' original novel, which won’t even be released until 2021 — though its early book fair debut had already attracted interest for a film adaptation. Perhaps that’s because of the intensely marketable logline for the novel, which purports to be “Lemony Snicket meets Dorian Gray." It follows 511-year-old Ebenezer Tweezer and a young orphan named Bethany — and, of course, a hungry beast lurking in the attic that's keeping the former alive.

So let's see: curmudgeonly man, young girl, and some magical upstairs weirdness? Sounds ripe for the big screen. It’s reportedly likely that WB and Heyman see franchise potential in this novel, which looks to be aimed at the same demographic as the Harry Potter books.

Next, the rash of coronavirus-influenced closures, delays, and postponements has hit the box office. Some films have bumped their release dates, while others simply see their box-office returns reduced by wary moviegoers. To mitigate the impact both to business and to their audiences, theater chain AMC has issued a statement documenting how it will be implementing "social distancing" protocols in the foreseeable future.

The chain is voluntarily capping its theaters at 50% of their maximum capacities, keeping their theaters below 250 people, per CDC guidelines. The statement also documents enhanced cleaning techniques that will be implemented.

Take a look:

AMC also recommends would-be moviegoers stay home if they don't feel well, and acknowledges that its own employees would be excused from work if they were feeling ill.

These changes will run from March 14 through April 30.

Finally, two of the first festivals affected by the coronavirus have found new solutions. Emerald City Comic Con and South by Southwest have made announcements after being early responders to the pandemic.

ECCC has found new dates, shifting the March-set Seattle fest to August 21-23. ReedPOP has already begun issuing refunds for those who held passes for the original dates, and started selling tickets for the new dates here. The website notes that passes for the original dates will not be honored during August. Approved press and pro applicants from the March show will see their badges roll over for the new fest dates.

SXSW has a different approach: a virtual festival. The film, TV, music, and tech fest is taking things online after being canceled in Austin. According to The Hollywood Reporter, SXSW's film competition will take place digitally, with jury members ranking films via links and screeners.

“This was going to be a transformative event, and with the cancellation, the filmmakers were left stranded and scrambling,” said festival director Janet Pierson. “We had several Special Awards juries already in place via links, and since we are not able to present the event, we decided to continue and expand to all the juried competitions, if the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available. We know it’s no substitute for the live SXSW event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to get attention for these wonderful films.”

Categories for the indie-skewing fest include animated, documentary, narrative, and "midnight" short film, narrative and documentary feature, and music video. Voting will run until March 21, with winners announced March 24.

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