Films with Canadian Links Affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the world now in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic and healthcare officials working tirelessly to tackle the virus, life as we know it has been altered in ways that many had previously thought unimaginable. The Spanish Flu of 1918 is the closest historical comparison we have to this ongoing crisis, but what we are experiencing is unprecedented in that the global economy in the 102 years since has grown into a vastly intertwined market, while advancements in air travel has seen populations become increasingly nomadic. As such, the highly infectious virus has spread like wildfire in only a matter of months, grinding numerous economies and industries to a near halt, and despite its immense influence and wealth the film industry is no different.

While in some cases studios have been able to pivot in the midst of the outbreak, such as Universal Pictures moving its box office hit The Invisible Man to streaming platforms for rent only three weeks after its theatrical release, others have had to push back upcoming releases or suspend those that are currently in production. As such, I have compiled a list of films with varying Canadian connections that have been affected by COVID-19.

Before I begin, it’s worth noting that several of the films below whose productions have been suspended still maintain the same anticipated release date, but given the unpredictability of the virus, these could be subject to change in the future.



Initial Release Date: March 27th, 2020

Production Status: Complete

New Release Date: TBA

The Canadian Connection: Taiwanese-Canadian actor Nelson Lee has a minor role as a character called The Chancellor, who is essentially the live-action version of the animated film’s Chi-Fu. If he is anything like his animated rendition, he will be a loyal but sexist member of the Emperor’s council who believes that women have no place in the military and must abide by their own assigned roles in society.



Initial Release Date: April 17th, 2020

Production Status: Complete

New Release Date: TBA

The Canadian Connection: This film ticks a number of Canadian boxes despite being an American production. First and foremost, the film is produced by Guillermo del Toro and Toronto native J. Miles Dale, both of whom shared the Best Picture Oscar for their work on The Shape of Water in 2017. The film also stars veteran First Nations actor Graham Greene and was shot in and around Vancouver, further exemplifying Guillermo del Toro’s affinity for shooting in Canada, but more on that later.



Initial Release Date: May 15th, 2020

Production Status: Complete

New Release Date: TBA

The Canadian Connection: Not only does the film feature English-Canadian actress Zoie Palmer, known for her roles on Canadian TV shows Lost Girl and Dark Matter, but this next instalment in the Saw franchise was also shot in Toronto. Spiral was initially set to be released on October 23rd but was moved up to May 15th to avoid competition with Halloween Kills, which as it stands is set to be released on October 16th. It’s very likely Spiral’s production company Lionsgate will have to consider a date closer to its original October release.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Initial Release Date: July 10th, 2020

Production Status: Post-production

New Release Date: March 5th, 2021

The Canadian Connection: Shot in Calgary, Alberta, the film is directed by one of Canada’s finest filmmaking exports, Jason Reitman, while his father and fellow Canadian, Ivan Reitman, who produced and directed the original films, will return as the film’s sole producer. Additionally, the original cast will be making an appearance (minus the late and great Harold Ramis), which includes the legendary Ottawan actor and filmmaker Dan Aykroyd as Dr. Raymond Stantz. One of the more significant theatrical release delays at a little under 8 months, eager fans will now have to wait even longer to see the first true cinematic sequel to the original Ghostbusters films of the ‘80s.


Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Initial Release Date: February 12th, 2021

Production Status: In production (suspended)

The Canadian Connection: Kim’s Convenience cast member Simu Liu, who was born in China but raised in Mississauga, Ontario, was cast in the leading role as titular character Shang Chi. The film is a part of what Marvel calls Phase Four of its groundbreaking cinematic universe, which is set to begin with Black Widow, another film whose release date has been indefinitely delayed due to COVID-19. Shang Chi’s production was halted after director Destin Daniel Cretton revealed he had been in contact with people who later tested positive for the virus, although he consequently tested negative.


The Matrix 4

Initial Release Date: May 21st, 2021

Production Status: In production (suspended)

The Canadian Connection: Fellow Canucks Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return as Neo and Trinity. Enough Said.


Avatar 2 & 3

Initial Release Dates: December 17th, 2021 (Avatar 2), & December 22nd, 2023 (Avatar 3)

Production Status: In production (live-action shoots suspended)

The Canadian Connection: Obviously, James Cameron needs no introduction, but it’s worth noting that the legendary Canadian director’s known for pouring his heart and soul into his films while constantly trying to push the boundaries of contemporary filmmaking. In fact, it’s taken him this long to make the sequels to his 2009 megahit Avatar, firstly, because he has been shooting the first two sequels concurrently, much like Peter Jackson’s filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps more crucially, Cameron has been waiting for technology to become advanced enough to realise his true vision for the films, which involves being able to properly shoot motion capture scenes underwater, a feat that was not effectively possible until recently.

Cameron now faces further potential delays as planned shoots in New Zealand have been postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Though, with the release date for Avatar 2 still over 20 months away and the fact that they are still working on the visual effects while the crisis is ongoing, it doesn’t seem likely that the planned release dates will be affected. That being said, given Cameron’s reputation as a perfectionist, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility either.


Nightmare Alley

Initial Release Date: TBA

Production Status: In production (suspended)

The Canadian Connection: Like I said before, Guillermo del Toro simply cannot get enough of shooting in Canada. Both he and his frequent collaborator, producer J. Miles Dale, team up once again for Nightmare Alley, which is the first film they’ve produced together with del Toro in the director’s chair since The Shape of Water. Nightmare Alley, which was being shot in Dale’s native city of Toronto before production was suspended in early March, has yet to be given any kind of a release date. One thing that’s for certain, however, is it will follow del Toro’s next film, Pinocchio, which will be a dark retelling of the classic fairy-tale and is the filmmaker’s first time directing an animated film.



Initial Release Date: TBA

Production Status: Pre-production

The Canadian Connection: Not only will Shrunk be in the first film in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids franchise since 1997’s Honey, I Shrunk Ourselves, but it will be a sequel that brings its original star, Toronto actor Rick Moranis, out of acting retirement. It’s a shame he won’t be returning to the Ghostbusters franchise with the rest of the original cast for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, although such a return might admittedly feel a little forced in comparison to Shrunk

Shrunk was set to be shot in Toronto and Atlanta, Georgia, beginning some time in spring of this year, although like every other live-action Disney film in production, it has been postponed until further notice.


That’s the list for now, though there are still productions with Canadian links that could very well be suspended and/or delayed in the coming weeks, such as the Tom Cruise vehicles Top Gun: Maverick and Mission Impossible 7 (which feature Canadian actors Manny Jacinto and Henry Czerny respectively), as well as Christopher Nolan’s upcoming sci-fi action thriller Tenet, which features former NHL star Sean Avery of all people.

If there’s any films that have been left out, please feel free to comment below. But most importantly, be safe.


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