Pandemic movie ‘Contagion’ is available on HBO after surging in popularity on digital rental platforms

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Kate Winslet in ‘Contagion.’ Warner Bros.

The 2011 pandemic movie “Contagion” surged in popularity amid the coronavirus outbreak on digital platforms and piracy websites earlier this year. Now it’s available on HBO.

Audiences can stream the movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh, on HBO’s standalone streaming service HBO Now, which costs $US14.99 per month, or on HBO Go, which is free for those who already have an HBO cable subscription.

“Contagion” had cracked the top 10 on iTunes by March and was the most popular movie on FandangoNow that wasn’t a new release. And according to piracy analytics company MUSO, the movie sparked interest on piracy streaming websites in the early days of the outbreak, increasing from 546 visits to piracy streaming sites on January 7 to a whopping 30,418 visits on January 30.

The movie’s producer, Michael Shamberg, told Insider’s Jason Guerrasio that the movie sparked positive word-of-mouth when it was originally released, but he’s shocked at the response nearly a decade later.

“I don’t think in the history of cinema anything has happened like this before,” he said. “We should not forget that we need cinema both to entertain us, take our minds off of stuff, but also it is the most powerful medium for informing people.”

That said, the movie’s writer, Scott Burns, told The New York Times in March that he received messages asking for advice on the coronavirus pandemic and was “alarmed when people choose to ask a screenwriter for advice, rather than a doctor.”

Not all of the movie’s science is plausible, but experts have said that the depiction of the way the movie’s virus moves to humans from animal encounters is a likely scenario.

“Contact with bats (or contact with intermediate animal hosts that acquired infection from bats) is a common theme among some recent emerging human infections,” the Centres for Disease Control told PBS NewsHour in 2011.