Terrorist attacks in the US on Tuesday threw into sharp relief the relevance of the entertainment industry. As the tragedy unfolded, US studios, cinemas and TV networks shut down for the day. The Emmy TV awards were postponed and the Latin Grammy awards cancelled. Even Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland were closed.
At the Toronto International Film Festival, the normally busy industry and press offices were scenes of confusion and concern as people from across the spectrum of the industry sought to contact loved ones and colleagues in the stricken cities. Rooms normally dedicated to press conferences were given over to television coverage of the events. Many others gathered in the event's public spaces and expressed their shock and sorrow.
In Los Angeles, Hollywood ground to a near standstill. Universal, Fox, Sony, Paramount, MGM, Dreamworks and Warner Bros. all shut down on Tuesday, with production halted on numerous films and TV shows. All city, state and federal buildings in the city closed, with most non-essential staff sent home.
Meanwhile, AMC Theatres, Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Mann Theatres, Pacific Theatres, Regal Cinemas and United Artists were some of the cinema chains that closed their doors in New York and around the US. Most said they did so out of respect for the tragedy. United Artists' Union Square cinema in Manhattan was used as a safe-haven in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.
US studios also moved quickly to delay openings of effects-heavy films such as Warner Bros' Anrold Schwarzenegger starrer Collateral Damage. Due for an October release, the film is the story of a man whose family is killed when a skyscraper is rocked by a huge bomb. Touchstone Pictures' Big Trouble, starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo, has also been delayed. The film's plotline centres on a bomb in a suitcase that is smuggled past airport security onto a plane out of the Bahamas. Other films using New York as a background will also be affected. It is understood that Sidewalks Of New York, starring Ed Burns and Heather Graham, has postponed its opening which was due later this month.
Questions will also be asked of other high profile US films. The trailer for highly anticipated Spiderman, for example, contained scenes of the mutant hero spinning a web between the towers of the World Trade Center. The trailer has now been moved from the film's official website.
The terrible events of the day had huge international repercussions. The UK came to a near standstill, with television stations ripping up their planned schedules to air news of the tragedy. Office workers in the City were evacuated, while others up and down the country abandoned their work to watch the unfolding events on their screens.
In Australia, the the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Brisbane ground to a halt. Delegates who did choose to show up spent much of the day in one of the main rooms glued to CNN. With many of the guests from the US, organisers provided the services of a councillor as a result.
As the scope of the tragedy became apparent in Toronto, the Festival cancelled screenings and events scheduled for the balance of the day. However, later that day, Festival Director Piers Handling announced the event would stay the course, proceeding with the films, press conferences and Rogers Industry Centre events as scheduled for Wednesday Sept. 12. The Festival runs until Sept. 16.
At first it seemed that logistical obstacles would prevent the Festival from continuing, given the closures of Toronto's Pearson Airport and the US-Canada border. Departing guests have been stranded in the city while arriving filmmakers and, in some cases, their films have been kept out. But, according to TIFF Press Office Director Gabrielle Free, enough of the prints are available to justify continuing. Free said the Festival would increase security at its venues where appropriate.
Free told Screen International that every effort is being made to reschedule the 28 public and 13 press and industry screenings that were cancelled on Tuesday.
The Festival arranged for a trauma response team to assist Festival guests and staff while hotels welcomed back guests who had been turned back at the airport. Most of downtown Toronto was closed by midday Tuesday, including the financial district, the CBC Broadcast Centre and the CN Tower.
In a statement, the Festival commented: "We are devastated by the shocking developments in the United States and extend our heartfelt support to all those affected by this incomprehensible tragedy."
Due to shipping delays, this weeks edition of Screen International may not reach US subscribers or news stands until the following week.