19 MAR 2020
SPECIAL CONTENT

HBO MAX’S “FRIENDS” REUNION SPECIAL DELAYED AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The special's production, originally scheduled to take place on March 23rd and 24th, is predicted to be halted until May at its earliest, but has no new official date yet.

The production of the “Friends” reunion special, originally scheduled to be filmed this month and released alongside Warner Media’s new streaming platform, HBO Max is the latest production to be delayed amid the global coronavirus pandemic. It is predicted that production will be delayed until May at its earliest, and a company spokesperson told Adweek that there is no estimated release time as it depends on how long the studios will continue to delay productions. 

It was originally intended for the unscripted reunion to film between March 23rd and March 24th at the show's former home at Stage 24 of the Warner Bros. Similar to reschedulings made by many other scripted, late-night, daytime or syndicated productions, the delay occurred as a result of the global recommendation to self-quarantine and maintain social distance. While the CDC's current recommendation is to avoid groups larger than 50, the number of people on set during production may often surpass that number, with possibly hundreds at any given moment.

The reunion will serve as the first time the “Friends” cast would reunite on screen together since the show went off the air in 2004. The show was available to view on Netflix up until January 1st when Warner Media paid an estimated $425 million for the rights to the series. THR revealed that the show’s availability on Netflix brought in a new wave of audiences. Due to streamers’ preference in event programming, the launch in May could have led to an increase in initial subscribers for HBO Max. The platform will be the exclusive streaming outlets for “Friends.” HBO Max, set to launch in May, will be a combination of HBO’s archive of celebrated programming with new shows and films, as well as Warner Bros. movies and new original series. It will be the highest priced streaming service, set to launch at $14.99 a month  Warner Media hasn’t confirmed whether HBO Max’s launch will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The reunion special will feature the show's main co-stars Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer, along with series creators David Crane and Marta Kauffman. During the show’s original run, the cast made a then record-breaking salary of $1 million per episode. Now, they will earn more than double their former fee per episode, at $2.5-3 million for the special. Agreeing on a financial deal was followed by coordinating a schedule with the cast, which had other plans in the way. Aniston, for example, also has worked on Apple's “The Morning Show,” which also paused its production as a result of the pandemic. Cox recently became involved in a Starz horror-comedy. LeBlanc leads the cast of the CBS comedy “Man With a Plan,” and Schwimmer stars in a European drama scheduled to stream on Pitchcock. the reunion special will be directed and produced by the cast, Emma Conway James Longman and Ben Winston, alongside "Friends” contributors Kevin Bright, Kauffman and Crane.