Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion” is getting a boost in popularity in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China. The 2011 ensemble thriller about a viral epidemic that originates in Hong Kong broke into the top 10 on the iTunes movie rental chart this week (it hit the #10 position on Tuesday, January 28) and continues to rank in the top 20 most popular films on the platform (the film is sitting in the #14 spot as of January 29). “Contagion” is the oldest film in the iTunes top 20 and is ranks alongside Oscar nominees “Ford v Ferrari,” “Parasite,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and “Joker,” among other titles.
“Contagion” begins with the death of Beth Emhoff, played in the film by Gwyneth Paltrow. Beth returns home to Minnesota from a business trip in Hong Kong with what appears to be normal cold-like symptoms. Beth dies from her illness within a 24-hour period. The film, written by Soderbergh’s longtime collaborator Scott Z. Burns, tracks the aftermath of Beth’s death as a new virus is discovered and leads to hundreds of deaths around the world. Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work to find a cure for the virus as the death toll hits 2.5 million in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide. The film features an ensemble cast that also includes Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Jennifer Ehle, Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston, and Kate Winslet.
The New York Times reported this week there have been over 4,500 confirmed cases of the real coronavirus across Europe. The virus is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, somewhat linking the coronavirus to the fictional virus depicted in Soderbergh’s “Contagion.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists symptoms of the coronavirus as “fever, cough and shortness of breath, with symptoms exhibiting in as few as two days or as many as 14 days after exposure.”
Warner Bros. released “Contagion” in theaters nationwide September 9, 2011 after a world premiere earlier in the month at the Venice Film Festival. The thriller was a solid hit with critics (84% on Rotten Tomatoes) and grossed $135 million worldwide against a $60 million production budget. The film is available to rent on iTunes for $3.99