Hollywood Versus the Volcano: It's No Movie

A cloud of volcanic matter rises from the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano, April 16, 2010 in Fimmvorduhals, Iceland.
Gusk | NordicPhotos | Getty Images
A cloud of volcanic matter rises from the erupting Eyjafjallajokull volcano, April 16, 2010 in Fimmvorduhals, Iceland.

The volcanic ash is starting to settle, but Hollywood is still taking stock of the impact of the natural disaster on the entertainment business.

Plenty of big names have been stuck on the other side of the world: British bands were stuck in London and missed performances at the Coachella music festival; musician Bryan Adams and Tom Ford both missed award festivals.

Some strandings are more expensive than others, especially when star power is relied on so heavily to drive movie ticket and album sales. It may be small potatoes compared to what the airline industry is facing, but a cancelled movie premiere can result in many fewer photos up in celeb magazines and on blogs.

Miley Cyrus won't make it to the London premiere of "Last Song." Selena Gomez, Usher, and Adam Lambert were all kept from plans to promote their albums. Universal (parent company is GE ) was forced to move the press junket for upcoming "Robin Hood" from London to LA, which surely costs the studio tens of thousands of dollars extra.

But perhaps the most notable disruption: yesterday Paramount (parent company is Viacom ) and Marvel (parent company is Disney ) announced they're moving the "Iron Man 2" premiere from London to Los Angeles. It's a hassle for press and the studio, which will still hold a screening in London on April 26 where the screening was planned. But the good news is that the debut of "Iron Man 2" in international theaters on April 28 and in the US on May 7, will be uninterrupted.

That's right—digital distribution technology will save the summer movie season. Until recently studios relied on FedEx and to ship films to theaters. Cinemas have installed pricey digital projectors because they have higher resolution and the potential to project in 3-D; they also have the benefit of streaming digital files instead of relying on heavy film reels.

Studios can send their films digitally directly to European cinemas without ever putting anything in the mail. This volcano is sure to push theater chains to continue to adopt digital projectors, and put those heavy film canisters behind them.

Now the question is how long the volcano will continue to wreak havoc on Hollywood schedules. The Tribeca Film Festival kicks off in New York tomorrow night: the screenings shouldn't be disrupted but some of the folks participating in panels and the like may not make it.

A crush of upcoming promotions and junkets for summer movies are certainly at risk. And with the summer concert season in full swing, this is the time of year when stars—actors and musicians —are in high demand for live events.

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