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WIRE Buzz: Coronavirus boosts Netflix numbers; Amazon adds Prime Video Cinema; more

By Jacob Oller
Pixar Onward

The coronavirus crisis might be hurting large swaths of the entertainment industry, but the world of streaming has certainly become more popular with so many more folks staying home. As theaters close and productions cease, watching TV and movies through one of the many on-demand subscription services — maybe all day, depending on circumstances — is an attractive proposition.

Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, said on CNN’s Reliable Sources (via Deadline) that the pandemic and its subsequent quarantines have been good for the streamer’s numbers. “You can imagine, all viewing is up. It’s up on Netflix, on CNN, on television in general,” Sarandos said. “The system has been very robust and can help out a lot of people. People certainly are watching a lot more Netflix. As Governor [Andrew] Cuomo said so beautifully, the best thing you can do is stay at home. We are trying hard to help.”

And while most traditional television will see its production halts affect future schedules and lineups, Sarandos says this isn’t the case for Netflix — at least not for a while. Because the company creates and banks episodes, fans don’t need to worry about bumps in premiere dates... for now.

“What’s happening now is we work pretty far ahead with delivering all the episodes of our shows at once so no disruption over the next few months, maybe later in the year as physical production is not operational,” Sarandos said.

Next, many of those films that would’ve been released in theaters if not for the coronavirus pandemic have found homes on digital releases. Movies like Bloodshot and Onward have had their home release schedules accelerated so that their studios can make some money off of them while the theaters are closed and audiences sequestered in their homes. Now Amazon has designated a new location where this particular kind of new-wave straight-to-digital release can be found: Prime Video Cinema.

It’s mostly just a new row on the website’s rental store, but merely putting a name to the distribution phenomenon is enough to shake up the entertainment world. Here’s what it looks like:

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Similarly, genre films The Invisible Man and The Hunt have received the In-Theater Rental tag, and the library only looks to be expanding in the coming weeks — until, of course, things look well enough to resume life as normal.

What will be interesting for the industry is seeing how fans react to this testing grounds for a theater-free moviegoing experience.

Finally, the director of Korean zombie hit Train to Busan has broken his silence on his follow-up film: Peninsula. Speaking to Screen Daily, Yeon Sang-ho made it clear that while the new film still occurs in the same world as the first’s undead commute, it’s not a direct sequel.

Despite re-hiring much of the same crew, including cinematographer Lee Hyung-deok, visual effects supervisor Jung Hwang-su, and art director Lee Mok-won, Peninsula is a much different animal. “It takes place four years after Train To Busan, in the same universe, but it doesn’t continue the story and has different characters,” Yeon said. “Government authority has been decimated after the zombie outbreak in Korea, and there is nothing left except the geographical traits of the location – which is why the film is called Peninsula.”

Here’s a first look at the nastiness to come:

The film’s cast — including Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Kyo-hwan, and Lee Ye Won — will be trying to survive an entirely overrun country. The budget is twice as big as the original’s, and so are the stakes. “The scale of Peninsula can’t compare to Train To Busan, it makes it look like an independent film,” said Yeon. “Train To Busan was a high-concept film shot in narrow spaces whereas Peninsula has a much wider scope of movement.”

The original film has been the subject of U.S. remake discussions in the past, and with an expanding shared universe on its way, it only makes the zombie franchise more attractive to foreign markets. There’s also a third film in the works — though the director still doesn’t know how his zombie outbreak began. “I’ve thought about dealing with that question in another film, which probably I won’t direct myself,” said Yeon. “There are a lot of interesting questions you could answer, issue by issue, with other films.”

Peninsula is set for a summer release in South Korea.