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Ben Affleck's movie strikes to Canada when Hollywood abandons the US with no typically accessible coronavirus testing

Ben Affleck

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Solstice Studios should begin filming Ben Affleck in Los Angeles in April. While the film's production has been halted by the coronavirus, it is the lack of generally available testing that is preventing it from resuming in the US this fall.

"It quickly became clear that it was absolutely impossible," said Mark Gill, President and CEO of Solstice Studios.

Instead, the film will be shot in Vancouver, Canada in October.

Rising Covid-19 cases in California forced the studio, Austin, Texas to be viewed as the new home for the film. Those plans quickly disintegrated when cases in the Lone Star state increased and it turned out that production couldn't pick up the three tests per week for actors and crew that Hollywood guilds needed if they stayed in the US .

"The problem is that there is a lack of testing, that the time between testing and the lab result is delayed, and that we immediately violate our agreement with the unions representing that cast and crew," said Gill, whose production credits include " Pulp Fiction, "The English Patient," "Good Will Hunting" and "Shakespeare in Love".

Gill said manufacturing is also looking at the UK and Australia as other potential safe havens for manufacturing.

Last month, Frank Patterson, CEO of Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, said the studio ran over 1,000 tests and had fewer than two dozen positive results. Most of those positive tests came from part-time workers, he said.

When Patterson was asked for additional information on testing Friday, he declined to comment.

A limited supply of Covid-19 test materials has hampered the US response to the coronavirus pandemic from the start, public health professionals say. It has made it difficult for people to get tested in some parts of the country. Delays in processing test results plagued the U.S. throughout the summer as those who could be tested waited days, sometimes more than a week, to receive their results – rendering them practically worthless.

Although national laboratories say they recently cut the wait, the US is currently running around 600,000 tests a day when most epidemiologists say the country will have to process millions a day to really reopen the economy.

Producer Shaun MacGillivray, the president of MacGillivray Freeman Films, which primarily produces and distributes documentaries, noted that some union testing guidelines are not officially enforced, but there is massive liability for productions if the rules are not followed, and for someone Gets ill.

With larger studios, the additional costs of securing tests and running labs are easier to absorb. Independent manufacturing companies could have a harder time, MacGillivray said.

"From a budget point of view, you have to think about 20% to 25% more spending to get this done," he said.

In Canada, Solstice Studios will have readily available testing and rapid laboratory results. The additional health and safety costs add up to a few million dollars for the studio producing films in the low to mid-range of $ 30 million to $ 80 million.

In addition, there are far fewer cases of coronavirus in Canada. The country reported an average of fewer than 400 new coronavirus cases per day over the past week, compared to more than 46,400 in the U.S. This is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The cast and crew will be quarantined for 14 days after arriving in the country.

"You can't plan anything if you know now that you can't," said Gill of productions slated to restart in the US this fall. "You need to know now that it will be possible in eight weeks or you are just planning a disaster."

– CNBC's Will Feuer contributed to this report.

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