What Mindfully Reopening the Entertainment Industry Looks Like
While almost everyone has turned to the entertainment industry to keep themselves occupied during the COVID-19 pandemic, the production of new content has come to an abrupt halt. Creation of entertainment, and some forms of consumption, such as movie theaters, require people to be close together in small spaces, making many aspects of the industry too dangerous to continue.
TV series filming had to shut down, so would-be spring season finales may not air until this fall. Numerous movie premieres have been delayed by months, and several more saw releases on streaming platforms instead of in theaters. Creatives have lost their jobs all over the country. However, the entertainment industry is gradually adapting and reopening. The question now is what will the entertainment industry look like in the near future?
What has changed?
Production companies, writers, actors, directors, investors and other moving parts of the industry are figuring out ways to work while in self-quarantine. Meetings now take place via video conferencing. Writers collaborate remotely. Post-production masterminds relocate their work from studio offices to their own laptops. Netflix has launched a native “watch party” feature, and drive-in theaters have managed to survive.
Although Hollywood production has slowed down, animation studios are alive and well. Employees have been encouraged to work from home and most animated shows are finding creative ways to record the actors remotely. Not everyone has been able to adapt, unfortunately. Many industry professionals are still out of work, and film festivals, including Cannes, Shanghai, South by Southwest, and Tribeca, have been postponed, canceled or forced to change format. Plenty of other events have followed suit, such as the Tony and Peabody awards ceremonies.
What Does Reopening the Entertainment Industry Look Like?
As the economy “reopens,” entertainment industry workplaces will look very different compared to the way they did before. Sets will likely operate with a reduced number of people present and require regular temperature checks. The Australian soap opera Neighbors, perhaps the first English-speaking TV series to resume filming, is forbidding more than 100 people on set at any given time and is exploring unique camera angles to make actors appear closer together. There will also be a nurse on set.
Resuming production carries an additional obstacle: a lack of insurance. COVID-19 will likely be considered an identified risk, so insurers will not cover losses due to delayed or canceled production. Workers will probably need to sign waivers to establish that they are working on set consensually despite having no other choice but to work, and going to work in high-density areas could mean severe health problems.
On the other end of the entertainment pipeline, movie theaters will need to enforce social distancing measures for the foreseeable future. As such, in-person viewership is likely to decline, and theaters will need to take unprecedented sanitation precautions.
One surprise of the COVID-related entertainment landscape was the success of the Trolls 2: World Tour home release. Universal decided to make it available on-demand immediately instead of releasing the film in theaters at a later date (such as with the anticipated sequel to A Quiet Place). The film was a success, grossing nearly $100 million in three weeks on $20 rentals.
Trolls 2’s success led to an all-out war between Universal and AMC Theaters. The latter even declared that they would no longer show Universal films. While theaters are not going away, a high amount of content will unsurprisingly be relocated to online platforms to limit in-person contact. The pandemic and the newfound viability of direct-to-home releases have left the industry questioning what role theaters will play in the entertainment industry’s future and the way viewers consume media.
How Do These Changes Impact Content?
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing production and distribution, it will, naturally, affect the kind of content that gets created. Investors arguably have more to lose if a project fails to perform, so will production companies feel the need to consult viewers and test content with audiences more thoroughly before moving forward with projects?
As for actors working together on screen, the chief executive producer of Neighbors acknowledged that clever camera angles are “going to look a bit odd.” If other series and movies go this route, it’s possible that they will increasingly rely on CGI and editing techniques to make productions appear more natural. It’s also possible that we will witness an increase in animated content due to animators’ abilities to work remotely and the possibility for actors to work from sound booths.
The entertainment industry is still alive, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly transformed it. As the entertainment world adapts to social distancing measures, the increased use of technology and new methods of distribution, fans of movies and TV should ready themselves for an evolving landscape — but one that is still committed to bring them laughter, education and imagination.