March 4, 2020 | 3:50pm
Anna Jacoby-Heron and Matt Damon in "Contagion." Warner Bros/courtesy Everett Collection
“Contagion” is going viral.
The 2011 killer virus flick starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Jude Law is climbing the charts, according to the New York Times, as the coronavirus rapidly spreads.
The Warner Bros. film ranked 270th in views in the company’s catalog at the end of 2019, when the existence COVID-19 was not yet public knowledge. Now, it’s the second most-watched movie, topped only by the “Harry Potter” films, and has become popular on Amazon Prime Video and iTunes.
The film’s plot centers around a mysterious disease that kills a woman after she travels to Hong Kong for business and follows her back to the US, spreading rapidly and killing 26 million people around the world.
“It was very deliberately designed to be a cautionary film,” producer Michael Shamberg told Buzzfeed News. “We got the science right.”
Though eerily similar to the current viral outbreak, writer Scott Burns told Fortune that the hysteria in the film is the most important thing to pay attention to. “The similarities between our contagion and the coronavirus are immaterial, accidental and really not that important. What is more important and accurate is the societal response and the spread of fear and the knock-on effects of that. That is proving to be accurate,” he said.
While the film is definitely scary, Shamberg hopes people will find a message of hope after watching it. “It shows that ultimately there will be a solution and humanity will recover,” he said. “If it’s scary, it’s only meant to scare people into taking precautions and it’s only meant to scare the infrastructure into doing the right thing. We’re not trying to scare people that they’re all going to die. We’re trying to scare people that you can do something.”
“I paid $12.99 to watch a 10-year-old movie. I’ve never done that before,” Barry Jenkins told the New York Times. The “Moonlight” director watched the film while in Atlanta, coincidentally where the CDC is headquartered, along with “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang.
“I was really curious to see how well it would line up to what is happening right now,” he said. “It was shocking. It felt like I was watching a documentary that has all these movie stars playing real people.”
Paltrow issued a warning about the spreading coronavirus on social media this month when she broke out a mask like she wore in the movie. “I’ve already been in this movie. Stay safe. Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Contagion” is not available on Hulu or Netflix, according to Decider, but it’s available for free on Cinemax and for rent on several streaming services.