STX announced today that the Michael Bay (via Platinum Dunes)-produced pandemic thriller Songbird will debut not in theaters but on PVOD beginning December 11, 2020. The Adam Mason-directed flick, penned by Mason and Simon Boyes, stars (deep breath) KJ Apa, Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson, Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Walter Hauser, and Demi Moore. The film was notable for being the first movie to shoot in Los Angeles during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. It also took some grief for allegedly playing loose with safety protocols, and yet the film was finished sans a single reported infection.
Songbird concerns a grim future (2024) where the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated during what has become the fourth-year in pandemic-infected world. The film concerns a bike courier who has to rescue his girlfriend from government-mandated quarantine protocols (Q-Zones and concentration camps) after she realizes she may be infected. So, in a skewed way, think Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield with a pandemic instead of a rampaging alien monster. And yes, the trailer did bring to mind certain “the government is out to get you and can’t be trusted to help you” narratives that seemingly feed into politically-affiliated paranoia.
Whether the movie will offer that kind of messaging (think Clint Eastwood’s otherwise solid Sully, which turned the National Transportation Safety Board into antagonists) and whether that will be a deal breaker is yet to be seen. It’s not fair, but I always wonder to what extent the likes of Ghostbusters and Die Hard (where the federal government is either a distraction or an outright antagonistic force) colored pop culture both during and after the Regan era. That said, I don’t think Matt Parker and Trey Stone’s Team America: World Police, released a month before the George W. Bush/John Kerry election, changed any more minds in late 2004 than did Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
Still, I’m not sure if a movie presenting anti-Covid governmental oversight as acted like glorified Nazis is “the movie we need right now.” But that’s a conversation for when the film actually screens for press. As a technical matter, it will be interesting to see to what extent this “shot-during-Covid” flick resembles a pre-Covid thriller in terms of production value, character interaction and old-school storytelling. I mean, Shudder’s Host was neat for what it was (and in how it worked as a horror flick due to and despite its restrictions) but I wouldn’t want every movie for the next two years to be essentially “Zoom… on film!”
Come what may, Songbird now faces a further declining theatrical marketplace (including reclosures in markets like San Diego and San Francisco and Sacramento) and another surge in COVID-19 infections which makes a theatrical release, at least anytime soon, commercially unlikely. It’ll debut one week before the domestic PVOD launch of Gerard Butler’s (pretty good) disaster flick Greenland, which has earned $37.5 million overseas on a $35 million budget thus far. Songbird will also debut on a “major streaming service” in 2021. We can place our bets (My Spy was a huge hit for Amazon