Through this pandemic there have been many socio-economic changes, and the entertainment industry in particular has helped many to cope with their quarantine. Whether through binging tv shows on Netflix or listening to music, artists have ensured we had some form of distraction and optimism during these uncertain times. However, the support this industry provided has not been reflected in the government’s COVID-19 recovery package. Many key players, both large and small, have been affected by the pandemic, and unfortunately they have not received compensation for its effects.
Firstly, it is important to define what is included within the entertainment industry. This sector includes art, music, theatre, television and film, and is heavily reliant on its consumer base. Due to its high barriers to entry, many artists face difficulty breaking into the industry in normal conditions. COVID-19 only exacerbated this, as artists were unable to display their artwork, and cinematographers had no access to sets or production teams for their films. However, as these occupations are not seen as essential they have not been prioritised in plans concerning economic recovery.
Live entertainment was put to an immediate halt as soon as the case numbers escalated. Concerts, theatres and cinemas were all placed on hiatus. Due to the difficulty of reopening, it is hard to predict when such services can start again, and many safety measures will have to be adopted. Recently, Taiwan hosted its first 10,000 person arena concert with the artist Eric Chou since the beginning of the pandemic, as reported by Time. Temperature checks were enforced as well as mandatory mask wearing, while all attendees had to present ID cards to ensure contract tracing. The extensive planning and necessary precautions demonstrates how the industry may have to adapt to the current climate.
There have been some positive aspects to the pandemic. Streaming services like Netflix have been able to make large gains, as many have turned to online entertainment sources during lockdown periods. The streaming giant doubled its subscriber target up to 16 million in the first quarter of 2020 according to the Financial Times, and stocks climbed by more than 30%. Disney introduced its streaming service Disney+ and moved its new summer blockbuster Mulan to a digital release on the platform, priced at $30 as CNN businessreports to recover some of the $200 million in production costs. Furthermore, reputable film awards The Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars) has changed its eligibility criteria following the impact of COVID-19 on cinemas around the world. According to new guidelines, streamed movies have been included for the first time in the race for best picture for this year’s awards. This shift shows another victory for streaming services as the Academy Awards are a large honour and recognition, and one from which streamed films are often exempt.
Unfortunately, these victories by streaming services have been to the detriment of cinemas. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the global box office loss in revenue had reached approximately $7 billion by mid-March. This is partially due to the postponement of large productions, like the long awaited James Bond instalment ‘No Time to Die’, which alone reached production costs of $50 million.
Broadway has also been subject to large losses. Unable to open its doors to spectators, it has suffered a loss of $100 million in revenue according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Actors Equity, the union for theatre performers, has called out the government for the lack of support- international president of IATSE Matthew D. Loeb has pled for the government to not see entertainment workers as “collateral damage”as also reported byThe Hollywood Reporter.
As a result, many in the industry have suffered from job losses. The Canadian Media Producers Associationhas estimated that 172,000 jobs were at risk as of April, mainly due to the halt of large TV and movie productions. The British Film Institute (BFI) has launched targeted relief programmes worth £4.6 million to help support independent productions, as well as developing a fund to help freelancers within the industry. Many production companies have relied on insurance policies that cover losses related to health concerns. Television has equally been affected in terms of its production but as Deloitte reports, there has been a rapid decline in spending for advertisements, as many businesses have been unable to stay afloat let alone invest in advertising.
Ultimately, the industry is beginning to recover, as noted when a crowd of 2,500 fans saw rock artist Sam Fender at the UK’s ever socially distanced concert on the 11th August, as reported by Vulture. However, this recovery will difficult, especially due to the fears of consumers in relation to large gatherings. As stated by Entrepreneur, the entertainment industry has never “witnessed such desolation” as that caused by COVID-19, which has only been exacerbated by the lack of government support. This has clearly raised flags as to how fragile the industry can be, and will need a re-evaluation of how the industry works, such as developing new models so as to re-establish its presence. While the entertainment industry has evidently been forgotten by the government in its policy towards economic recovery, hopefully some form of aid will develop as economic conditions begin to improve.