COVID-19 and the Entertainment Industry

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has rocked the world, all but shutting down the entertainment industry and bringing the world of live events to a screeching halt. As adaptable as always, the industry has found creative ways to continue to bring consumers the content they desire, no matter the circumstances. For the few live performances and television shows that are still operating, new procedures have been implemented to keep everyone involved with these productions safe from coronavirus infection.

The sporting world (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, etc.) has implemented a tiered system to protect their players, coaches and other staff on the field. Those employees that need to support the event on field close to players have been given nasal PCR diagnostics tests to ensure they do not have the coronavirus present in their system prior to the event. Members of the sporting event production that would have to submit to testing to be on the playing field with professional athletes include, but not limited to cameramen, special effects technicians for player introductions, production members that manage the game clock and game officials. There has been a cap put on the number of individuals on field so cheerleaders, mascots, national anthem singers, and other production people have had to find other places within the venue to perform. Patrons of sporting events have signed waivers that mirror normal contract tracing questionnaires to attend these events at reduced capacities. Mandatory mask mandates have been put in place in these venues for all spectators, staff, and vendors in an effort to keep the players and each other safe during this global pandemic.

Some live performances, like late night talk shows, feature films, or musical tours have gone completely digital in the face of the COVID-19. For example, Disney’s “Mulan,” a live-action reboot of the beloved animated classic, was streamed on Disney+ streaming service for its debut, overcoming the challenge of closed physical theaters. Late night and daytime talk show hosts have been inviting the viewer into their own homes and from their couches interviewing Hollywood stars over streaming services like Zoom. Musical acts have been getting in on the digital shift, performing as they would in front of a live audience, but instead in front of cameras broadcasting their performance to an audience that gets to enjoy the show from the comfort, and safety, of their own homes.

Some entertainment companies have gotten creative and ushered in the return of the “drive-in theater.” Comedians, movie nights with families, even political candidates have gotten in on the action, and the sound of car horns have replaced the applause we have all grown accustomed to. Some performers have even taken it to the next level, placing each audience member in a large plastic “containment bubble” to experience the performance as we once did, while ensuring social distancing rules are followed without crowd management having to do the work to separate patrons to acceptable distances.

We have no way of telling what is to come for the entertainment industry, but we do know there is one constant, which is the people that make up this industry will find the newest and most innovative ways to make sure we are entertained, as they have for decades before COVID-19.

– Christina Van Zuidam