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World Call for Climate Change Actions; Navalny's Doctors Urge Him to Stop Hunger Strike; India Sets Global Record for Daily Cases Second Day in a Row; Europe Battles Potential Third COVID Wave; Argentina Faces Case Surge, Overwhelmed Hospitals; Search Intensifies for Missing Submarine; Search Intensifies For Missing Indonesian Submarine; SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Ready For Trip To Space Station; Movie Industry's Fight For Survival; Shooting Of Black Teen In Columbus, Ohio Renews Concerns Over Use Of Force. Aired 2-2:45aET

Aired April 23, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): World leaders commit to taking action against climate change, but what's next? We'll talk with a Danish climate minister.

Then, while all eyes are on India and Brazil, Argentina also facing a COVID crisis amid a sharp second wave.

And time running out to find a missing submarine and its crew. The U.S. is now sending an air support.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to "CNN Newsroom." I'm Michael Holmes.

Welcome, everyone. We do start with a CNN. India has shattered the global record for daily new COVID-19 infections, now for the second day in a row. The country reporting more than 332,000 new confirmed cases in just the past 24 hours. And in just four days, some one million people in India have been infected with the virus. Four days.

The health care system, obviously, is severely strained. At least six hospitals in Delhi ran out of oxygen on Thursday. Now, several countries are banning flights from India because of the surge in cases. We'll have more on this developing story a little later in the hour.

Meanwhile, an ambitious global summit to fight climate change has already secured verbal promises from numerous world leaders to curb their output of greenhouse gases. Now, it doesn't guarantee they will actually do it, but it is an encouraging first step.

Day two of the virtual summit, hosted by the Biden White House, gets underway in the hours ahead. President Biden set the bar high on day one, pledging to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions by half by the end of the decade. Japan's prime minister announcing a goal of 46 percent reduction by 2030. And, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, said his country, which pumps out more carbon dioxide than any other, aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, still a long way off. Even the leader of Brazil seemed on board despite the unprecedented destruction of the Amazon rainforest during his time in office.


JAIR BOLSONARO, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translator): Accordingly, I have determined that our climate neutrality in Brazil be achieved by 2015, therefore, bringing forward by 10 years the previously announced commitment levels. Among the measures that are required to that, may I highlight here, our commitment to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030.


HOLMES (on camera): And Dan Jorgensen is the Danish climate minister. He joins me now from Copenhagen. Minister, thank you for doing so. You're representing your country at the summit. What -- what is your assessment of what is going to be achieved in real terms, actions over words?

DAN JORGENSEN, DANISH CLIMATE MINISTER: Well, this is a summit that has, first and foremost, the aim to get countries to pledge what it is that they want to do. How much would they reduce their emissions and when will they do it? But it is also clear that we need to move forward from that. We need real action.

So, we need, first of all, the development of the new technologies. We need countries to move away from fossils like coal and oil and use more renewables instead. If they do so, I think it would be a win-win situation for those countries because it will also strengthen the economy.

HOLMES: The fossil fuel industry still wields an enormous amount of political clout, notably, in the U.S. Denmark gets 50 percent of its energy from renewables, which is remarkable. What -- what is your message to other countries on transitioning and what has been your sales pitch, I guess, at the summit?

JORGENSEN: Well, we have decided to stop the extraction of fossils (INAUDIBLE) despite the fact that we are the biggest oil producer in the E.U. right now. So we -- we said that we need to do this transformation. And my message to other countries is that it can be done in a way that you make sure that the people employed in the sector get new jobs. For instance, we are creating far more jobs in offshore wind right now than we are losing in offshore oil and gas.

HOLMES: Yeah. That is important enough to overlook the benefits of going for renewables. The U.S. president said he is planning to cut emissions by 50 percent by 2030. That is a bold pledge. But is it enough, especially, you know, countries like India or in China, which haven't been very specific on what they will be doing? What else should be a priority not just for the U.S. but globally? [02:04:59]

JORGENSEN: Well, let me start by applauding the new historical step by the U.S. That is -- that is definitely important. If we are to get the biggest emitters on the planet to follow suit, we need -- we need countries like the U.S. to show the way.

In Denmark, my own country, we have a plan to reduce our emissions by 70 percent. We hope, of course, that this summit can also be a place where countries that are already taking the lead maybe inspire others so that it's not looked upon as something you -- you need to do that will hurt your country's economy, that will hurt quality in your country, for instance. But that is actually something that would do the opposite. It will make your country a better place also for your citizens.

HOLMES: How important is it that after four years of Donald Trump, including pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accord, how important is it that the U.S. is back in leadership position on this?

JORGENSEN: It's absolutely essential. There is no doubt that if we are to reduce the risks of climate change, if we are to keep it under control, we need the biggest emitters on the planet to take leadership.

So, we applaud not only the fact that the U.S. is now re-entering the Paris agreement, but that they are pledging an ambitious reduction target.

HOLMES: I do want to go back to something you touched on because I think it is important and often not discussed enough. The environmental costs of not acting are obvious, but it's probably underreported. The enormous economic and job benefits of renewables, solar, wind, and so on, what has been Denmark's experience when it comes to that aspect?

JORGENSEN: Well, we've gone through a green transformation for decades now and it hasn't hurt our competitiveness. On the contrary, we have created thousands and thousands of new jobs. For instance, a thing like energy efficiency, it's not only going from fossils to renewables, it is also about becoming more efficient.

When you become more efficient, the companies, the households, they actually save money. We get cleaner air. We get good, well-paying union jobs. So, all in all, for us, it's a very good case example, hopefully, for the rest of the world to feel inspired by.

HOLMES: That's a win-win in that regard. Danish climate minister Dan Jorgensen, thanks so much. I appreciate your time.

JORGENSEN: Thank you.

HOLMES: And join CNN for a special town hall on climate change. Senior Biden administration officials will answer questions on how President Biden plans to remake U.S. climate policy and combat global warming. That is Friday night, 10 p.m., New York time, 10 a.m., Saturday, in Hong Kong.

Five of Alexei Navalny's doctors are urging him to stop his hunger strike immediately or they will soon have no one to heal. The jailed Russian opposition leader has been fasting for weeks in a plea for better medical care. His doctors say he was taken to a civilian hospital on Tuesday, but they're still fighting to see him themselves.

Meanwhile, a watchdog group says nearly 1,900 protesters were detained on Wednesday as demonstrators held opposition rallies in support of Navalny across the country.

Sam Kiley is with me from Moscow now. Let's start with Alexei Navalny, the doctors calling on him to end his hunger strike. Tell us about it.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael. I think today is going to be a crucial moment in the medium term history of Russia and, of course, in the very dramatic recent life of Alexei Navalny, namely, will he take the advice or answer the pleas, really, of his team of doctors who have assessed his medical condition following tests conducted by independent doctors, in other words, not prison or government-appointed doctors, but an independent team of physicians at a civilian hospital?

Just before, actually, the nationwide protests were launched by his movement, demanding that he get just that kind of medical attention and, of course, protesting against Vladimir Putin's role.

Now, if he decides that he has now received the medical attention that he needs, he may well decide to come off his hunger strike. He may decide to continue with it. His -- his doctors have been saying that he is now clearly in danger with a number of neurologic problems, plus kidney failure, renal failure, and possible heart failure as a consequence of being in his third week of hunger strike.

The only kind of nutrition that he has been allowing himself has been a limited amount of some kind of glucose supplement, we understand, from statements made by his lawyers.


KILEY: So, it's a really important decision-making moment for Alexei Navalny. He very much personifies the wider opposition movement here which has been suffering increasing levels of oppression obviously by the Putin administration. Michael?

HOLMES: Mm-hmm. I want to get your thoughts, too, on Russia ordering those troops to return to base after what was a massive buildup close to Ukraine's border and then occupied Crimea. What do we make of that given the concerns that were there about those troop movements?

KILEY: The official line from the Russians is that they are moving their troops back after successful springtime exercises. They are also saying that since NATO is conducting a large -- very large defense operation, a defense exercise in its territory, some of which like Estonia, Romania, and Bulgaria, which are going to be a focus of NATO exercises in the former Soviet area of influence, the Russian are saying, we don't want to come into any kind of friction with NATO.

So they are giving it a lovely, positive spin. I think the real issue for people involved in intelligence but also people on the ground will be, do they withdraw all of these troops or do they leave some key elements behind? Will they, for example, leave paratroopers in Crimea and sophisticated missile systems on the border with Ukraine? That remains to be seen, Michael.

HOLMES: Mm-hmm. OK. Thanks so much, Sam Kiley, in Moscow. Appreciate it.

We are going to take a quick break here on the program. When we come back, India's COVID surge turning from crisis to catastrophe as the country hits another global record for daily new cases. Coming up is a look at its crumbling health care system.

But India isn't the only country being hit by a tsunami of new cases. Why Argentina is struggling through what officials are calling the worst moment of the pandemic. Stay with us.


HOLMES: Welcome back. While coronavirus cases are holding steady or declining in much of north and South America, several Asian countries are finding themselves in the grip of a devastating surge.

India is breaking the global record for new cases for a second day in a row. Japan is expected to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, and two other prefectures.

As we mentioned, India reporting more than 332,000 new confirmed cases on Friday, extraordinary numbers, and deaths are rising, too, as the health care system nears breaking point. Hospitals are running out of beds and in dire need of oxygen. Six hospitals in Delhi have no oxygen to give their patients. The crisis is leaving many families with nowhere to turn.


Here is Anna Coren.


ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-two- year old Vishwaroop Sharma believes he is living in hell. Three days ago, he drove his critically-ill father who contracted COVID to a Delhi hospital and pleaded for help. With no beds, no oxygen, they were forced to wait outside, Sharma rubbing his father's back, trying to offer reassuring words, but no help came.

VISHWAROOP SHARMA, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: He knows he was going to die. He was saying, I won't be able to breathe, I need something, I need more medicines. But nothing is provided to him, and he died in front of me, on my hands.

COREN (voice-over): Sharma told CNN he returned home to find his mother, now a widow, struggling to breathe. She, too, had contracted the deadly virus. With the help of friends, he purchased an oxygen cylinder on the black market. For the next few days, he drives from hospital to hospital with his mother in the backseat, breathing through an oxygen mask. Finally, he found an available bed at a hospital 100 kilometers away.

SHARMA: She was telling me, don't be worry, I'll be back, I'll be back, don't worry. If God is with us, I'll be back.

COREN (voice-over): India is facing a second wave that has turned into a tsunami, catching the nation's government completely off guard that failed to stockpile or prepare for this moment.

SRINATH REDDY, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC HEALTH FOUNDATION OF INDIA: Given the number of infections that we already have and the people that might be already infected, I do not expect the case count to go down before three or four weeks and the death count to go down at least two to three weeks thereafter.

COREN (voice-over): Hospitals are at breaking points with an acute shortage of beds and oxygen. The capital, Delhi, has less than half the required oxygen for COVID patients, despite India being one of the world's largest producers of medical and industrial oxygen.

The high court has criticized the central government's handling of the oxygen crisis, describing the shortage as ridiculous.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced measures to increase the production and supply of oxygen, but the duty of the government is now falling to private citizens.

TEHSEEN POONAWALLA, ACTIVIST, TV HOST: It's a horrible situation. It's as if the government has completely abdicated its responsibility. There is no help anywhere. The health system has completely collapsed.

COREN (voice-over): Activists and TV host Tehseen Poonawalla and his wife Monica are using their celebrity influence and resources to help desperate Indians source oxygen, cylinders, and hospital beds, which they believe should not be a privilege but a fundamental right.

Thousands are appealing to them on social media. But for every 50, they say, they can only manage to help one.

POONAWALLA: It's very difficult. Imagine you have oxygen, you don't have cylinders. Imagine your oxygen that can't transport the oxygen. Therefore, people are dying with oxygen. It's criminal.

COREN (voice-over): For Sharma, a student studying law, he knows first-hand how much his country is now suffering. As he prepares to pick up his father's remains from the crematorium, he is praying that COVID does not take his mother as well.

SHARMA: I'm totally helpless because I have lost my father two or three days ago and I left my mom in the hospital. I am so helpless. I am all alone now.

COREN (voice-over): Anna Coren, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES (on camera): Meanwhile, in Europe, as we can show you, I think, a map there, you can see the number of new cases going down in most countries. But some still are heading in the wrong direction. Germany just advanced a new bill that will give Chancellor Angela Merkel more power to fight a third coronavirus wave. And in France, the prime minister says it appears that the latest wave has peaked there.

And while they are recording similar numbers of new cases, what France and Germany are seeing and doing are completely different.

CNN's Cyril Vanier with that.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The E.U.'s two biggest countries, France and Germany, are both recording about 30,000 infections a day, which is fairly high relative to their population size. But Paris and Berlin are taking different approaches.

For France, which saw infections surge recently, that's good news, 30,000 cases a day is an improvement on the previous week, and it's a sign that recent restrictions are working. The government believes that the peak of the third wave is now behind them, and schools will start reopening next week. Nonessential stores and restaurant terraces might reopen by mid-May. The government there is in a hurry to get back to a more normal life.

In Germany, however, 30,000 new cases reported on Thursday, that puts the country back where it was in January. So parliament has just approved a new law that should allow for a more unified response to COVID.


VANIER: The central government will be able to impose lockdowns on areas that have a high infection rate and that would end the patchwork response by federal states. If there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, for instance, well then the government will be able to impose curfews, limit private gatherings, and close shops in those regions. Even more cases, the government will be able to close schools in those areas.

Meanwhile, both countries are vaccinating faster than they have until now. Twenty-two percent of the German population have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and one quarter of the French adult population will soon have received at least one dose.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.


HOLMES: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, the search to locate Indonesia's missing submarine is becoming more urgent. Time is running out, so too the vessel's oxygen supply. The latest on the international search and rescue effort, coming up.


HOLMES: Now, much of South America is seeing a surge in new COVID infections. The map shows, as you can see there, places including Columbia, Venezuela, Chile, Peru all seeing big jumps in newly confirmed cases. That's according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But the hardest hit in the region right now might well be Argentina. Its health minister says it is going through the worst moment of the pandemic. Officials say there are major concerns that the health care system is becoming overwhelmed, especially around the capital, Buenos Aires. The death toll nationwide has surpassed 60,000. Argentina has set a series of records for new cases in recent weeks and that has led to the re-imposition of some lockdown measures.

Joining me now is Dr. Eduardo Cazap. He's the founder of the Latin American and Caribbean Society of Medical Oncology, also the editor- in-chief of the ecancer. He is live for us in Buenos Aires. Thanks for making the time, doctor.

We say the health minister there said Argentina is going through its worst moment of the pandemic, also said the virus is, in her words, growing exponentially in most of the country. What is your assessment of the situation?

EDUARDO CAZAP, FOUNDER OF LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN SOCIETY OF MEDICAL ONCOLOGY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF ECANCER: Thank you very much. The situation now is very serious with around 500 deaths and close to 27,000 new cases yesterday.


CAZAP: We are now in curfew since 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks. Actually, the situation -- the public transportation is only for priority workers. There is really a critical situation with the health care system.

HOLMES: I was going to ask you about that. Just how stretched is the health care system and how has it been able to respond?

CAZAP: Well, one thing that you should know is that Argentina is critical (ph) country. So each province, 24 provinces, are independent. So, the decisions are, of course, from the federal government of each province. And the city is autonomous. So, each province and city must decide their own measures.

For example, it's a general decision, but primarily the decision on the basis for COVID cases was extremely successful during the first wave of the virus. But now, the response is insufficient. The intensive care units are close to saturation between 70 percent or to 90 percent of patients exclusively for COVID. But there are also a proportion of patients with other diseases, as you can imagine. HOLMES: We have seen in neighboring Brazil a pretty deadly mismanagement of the crisis from the top down. A lot of criticism about Jair Bolsonaro, how he played down the virus and its impact. I'm curious in Argentina, how has the pandemic been managed in your view?

CAZAP: The situation here is quite different from Brazil. The president and the government decided since the beginning of the pandemic, in March of the last year, to use a so-called scientific approach with a group of advisers from infectious diseases and others.

But the situation today is out of control. I think that is debatable (ph). But, you know, perhaps saturation of the population or perhaps after more than one year of really different limitations, now the people is not so really confident in the system and is not following all of the proposals mainly because they need to work.

HOLMES: Yeah. I'm curious, what is your view of the state of vaccine rollout in Argentina?

CAZAP: Well, currently, less than 10 percent of the population have got the vaccine, most of them with a single dose of the first doze. A high percentage of people have not received the second dose.

HOLMES: Dr. Eduardo Cazap in Buenos Aires, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much and good luck.

CAZAP: Thank you very much, sir.

HOLMES: Well, ships and planes are converging now on the last known location of that missing Indonesian submarine. The search has reached a critical point with the remaining oxygen supply for the 53 people on board expected to last for little more than 12 hours.

An Indonesian warship equipped with high-tech sonar is being deployed to the search site, which isn't too far from Bali. The U.S. is sending aircraft to further aid in the search efforts.

Of course, families of those on board the submarine are in limbo. Some of them have been gathering on East Java, awaiting word on the fate of their loved ones.

Now, Blake Essig is following developments for us from Tokyo. Bring us up to date on the latest on these rescue efforts, Blake.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Michael, Indonesia is deploying 21 warships, three submarines, and five airplanes. Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and India have also sent ships. You mentioned the United States is also sending airborne assets to search for the missing submarine.

At some point today, Indonesian officials say that a ship with high- tech sonar capabilities will arrive on scene to try and find the sub, which still to this point has not been located. Sadly, the facts, as we know them right now, don't paint a positive picture for the 53 people on board the missing Indonesian sub.


And as you mentioned, loved ones are left holding out, hope -- waiting for updates as this situation plays out.

Now the search and rescue operation is focused on an area about 100 kilometers off the coast of Bali. This is an area where they last lost contact with the submarine on Wednesday morning; an oil spill was spotted from the air shortly after.

Now, if the crew is still alive, and Michael that is a big if at this point, maybe officials say that the submarine only has enough oxygen for the crew to survive until about 3 am on Saturday morning, local time.

Navy officials say that this particular sub, the Nanggala-402, has a dive capability of 500 meters, but is currently believed to be at a depth of about 700 meters. Now, if that's the case, experts say the submarine could implode under the pressure.

Now, it's also worth noting that this particular submarine was originally built in the late 1970s and doesn't have a rescue seat, with submarine experts telling CNN that its salvation is entirely in its own hands.

All that being said, this is still a search and rescue mission, but the clock is ticking to bring the 53 people onboard the missing submarine back home safely, Michael.

MICHAEL HOLMES, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: And real quick, obviously your mind goes to what the crew is going through; I mean, impossible to imagine. I mean, what has been the reaction from the Indonesian public to what's going on?

ESSIG: Oh, I mean, heartbreak. And as you said, it's really hard to put yourself in that position to understand, not only what the people onboard that submarine might be feeling but the loved ones back home again, again waiting for answers.

Now, we have heard from the wife of one of the people onboard the ship who said that, essentially her husband told her that he had to - she had to be ready for a situation like this years ago, showing images - video of a missing Russian submarine, saying again this is a possibility.

And so, again, a risk that friends and family knew was possible, but just an unimaginable situation that everyone finds himself in at this point.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely. Blake Essig in Tokyo, thanks.

Retired US Navy nuclear submarine commander David Marquet joins me now to talk about this. And you know submarines, I mean what's your level of optimism or otherwise at this point? I mean, what realities are in play?

DAVID MARQUET, RETIRED NUCLEAR SUBMARINE COMMANDER, US NAVY: Yes, well, the reality is, it all depends on how deep the water was where the submarine sank. If it sank in relatively shallow water, down to a couple of 100 feet, the crew could just egress from the submarine directly; we wear a hood and we float up to the surface.

I don't think that's the case, because they would have already done that. Down to deeper depths, the submarine's still intact. So you could get a rescue vehicle down there. Now, that connecting with the submarine is going to be problematic, because it's not designed for that. But you could theoretically rig up something.

And deep--

HOLMES: No, God no, sorry, because you touched on something, it's interesting. I mean, this was an older sub without that ability, right, to mate with a rescue sub, right.

MARQUET: Yes, so this is a 40 year old German submarine. It's a good submarine, but it's old. And when they built those back then, they didn't build them with the rescue - with the ability to mate the rescue vehicle. The rescue can get there and could sit next to the submarine. But you can't get out of the submarine without creating that seal with the rescue vehicle. It's just like you see in space where you see the modules connecting.

HOLMES: Right. I guess basically and you've sort of lived this, I mean when you bought a sub, I guess is there an acceptance that if something goes wrong, it can go very wrong?

MARQUET: Well, the ocean is unforgiving and you're down at deep depths and the laws of physics will take over. But it's not a matter of chance. We take care of our equipment. We have safety features. The United States Navy lost two submarines early in the Cold War, and took a whole number of steps to make sure that they were very, very safe, and knock wood, we haven't lost any since.

But it's you and nature. And one of the things a submariner would say is submarining is safe, as long as you remember it's dangerous.

HOLMES: Yes, that's a wise saying. I think when your mind goes through what the crew might be going through, I mean, it's pretty impossible to imagine. I'm sure as a submariner you've contemplated the what-ifs. I mean, what would be going through their head down there, if they are alive?

MARQUET: Yes, they're making every effort to let the Indonesian Navy know, A, they're alive, B, where they are as much as they can. On a submarine, you have different ways of communicating.


We have little canisters that we can eject and send up to the surface and they pop up a little antenna. But again, this is - they don't have the capability to do that.

HOLMES: I mean, the Navy thinks that - I mean, it could be as deep as 600 to 700 meters. I mean, when you think of that sort of depth, what risks does that pose in terms of the sub's I mean just physical capabilities.

MARQUET: Yes, if it sank in water that deep, they haven't survived.

HOLMES: Right. It was interesting, because it was an oil slick. I mean, what does that tell you? Could that mean that there was a breach of the sub? Where could that have come from?

MARQUET: Well, a submarine like the 209 is a diesel powered submarine and the oil tanks are built in and around the submarine. So, if the submarine hit the bottom and tank broke open, it could - that oil would have risen to the surface.

It's also possible that, if the submarine hit the bottom in a controlled way and the crew is still alive, they could have released, they could have put oil in a torpedo tube, for example, and deliberately released it to signal where they are.

HOLMES: Yes, I guess we can only hope for the best. But as you point out, there are some realities at play. David Marquet, thank you so much, really appreciate it. Thanks.

MARQUET: Cheers, hoping for the best.

HOLMES: Quick break here on the program. When we come back on CNN Newsroom, the Oscars are this Sunday and movie theaters are struggling to survive. We'll hear from one theater owner about his battle.


HOLMES: In just a few hours from now, four astronauts will launch from Earth on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule and head off to the International Space Station. You're looking there at a live picture from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida - just moments ago, in fact, not live.

The crew are on their way. We have seen pictures of that, they're heading there to get onboard and put the seatbelts on. It's going to be the third ever crewed flight for Elon Musk's company, and the first to use a reuse - a flowing (ph) rocket booster and spacecraft.

Two Americans as well as a French astronaut from the European Space Agency and a Japanese astronaut will spend six months on the ISS, after docking there Saturday morning.

Now the Academy Awards are this Sunday and it comes at a pretty critical time for the movie industry. The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down some movie productions for more than a year now. And with streaming services now showing new movies online, theaters are struggling to survive.

Clare Sebastian with that.


(VIDEO PLAYING) CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Cinema Village in New York's West Village, they've been turning on the projectors every few months, just to check they're working. Over the past year, owner Nick Nicolaou says he's exhausted his savings, burned through government aid and risked a divorce to keep his three independent theaters from going under.

NICK NICOLAOU, OWNER, CINEMA VILLAGE: This past year has been a bad horror movie because one thing right after the other was going wrong. At one point, we had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Department of Finance for property tax. So that cleaned us out.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): He can now open at limited capacity, according to New York rules, but first he has to repair the damage from frozen pipes that burst, the result of the building sitting empty for so long.

SEBASTIAN (on camera): The posters are still up from the last movie they showed here in March of last year. Business came to a sudden stop and it's now been more than a year with zero customers. And this is a story that's being repeated in movie theaters around the world.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): In 2020, the global box office fell by almost three quarters, according to Boxoffice Pro. Some theaters, including the iconic Cinerama Dome in LA have now closed for good, and big chains like AMC Entertainment came close to bankruptcy.

Not the kind of climate up and coming director Sasie Sealy would have chosen to release her debut feature film, Lucky Grandma.


SASIE SEALY, DIRECTOR, LUCKY GRANDMA: We made the decision to do a virtual release in May versus a physical release in August, just because we had no idea like what was going to be happening in August. Our red carpet was over Zoom, like Q&As with audiences were over Zoom. So it's just very surreal thing where I'm like, did that really happen?

SEBASTIAN (voice over): Virtual releases, be it through independent theaters or on streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max became commonplace in 2020; the pandemic accelerating an ongoing power shift in the industry.

SEALY: Netflix makes more movies per year now than like, you know, Warner Brothers. I mean, the number of movies that they're financing is crazy. So I mean, if you have a film that you want to get made, it's sort of like where you're going for financing I think is changing.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): For new filmmakers, Hollywood's future talent pipeline, the survival of both movie festivals and independent theaters, where they traditionally got exposure, will be critical.

NICOLAOU: You will not be allowed to sit anywhere another patron within six feet. SEBASTIAN (voice over): And despite strict new safety rules, Nick

Nicolaou isn't giving up.

NICOLAOU: I've succeeded through many difficult times, and I will succeed again. That energy that's in a movie house, when you're watching and crying and laughing together, these are the memories that should mean something to people.

SEBASTIAN (voice over): Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes, appreciate you spending part of your day with me. Stay tuned for World Sport. Follow me on Twitter at @holmescnn. We're going to leave you with another look at the SpaceX Crew Dragon preparing for launch just a few hours from now. I'll see you in about 15 minutes.