Hollywood Unhinges in Uncertainty


Laura Renfroe

The entertainment industry–encompassing movies, music, books, Broadway, and endless others–has experienced a whirlwind of questions and disappointments as Covid-19 continues to ambush plans for releases.

Laura Renfroe, Staff Writer

A family shuffles into line at the busy concession stand, fizzing with excitement on a December night. The long awaited Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker movie, today. The father grabs the jumbo bucket of warm golden popcorn off the counter and the mirthful family rush to their seats. Little did they know this would be one of the last times they would set foot in a movie theater as they entered 2020.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted practically every part of our lives, from toilet paper shortages to chaotic Zoom calls. While most people cringe at the effects of the pandemic on our economy and small businesses, Covid has its claws around another huge part of our culture: entertainment. 

Americans rely on entertainment perhaps more than the average person realizes. From hushed movie theaters playing enchanting new releases to booming concerts flashing with a kaleidoscope of stage lights, the entertainment industry is embedded into every day of our lives.

Films, concerts, Broadway, and more were thrown into a whirlwind of desperation as the months progressed and the pandemic seemed to only grow worse. The mass amount of events being cancelled meant tremendous loss of money.

With the sudden outbreak of Coronavirus cases, movies, tv shows, and concerts alike had to cancel or postpone on a whim. The impressive lineup of movies ripe to be released into theaters was abruptly pushed back further and further into the year and even into 2021. 

Many movie theaters shut their doors as medical experts questioned appropriate safety guidelines. This was concerning for moviemakers since films rely on box offices to help pay for colossal production budgets. 

And when the box offices close, then what?

Thankfully outlets like Netflix and Disney+ were still able to provide movie nights and drama binge-watching all-nighters in the comfort of one’s home. Even then, 2020 movie releases set to be aired in real-life theaters were left in question. 

And while some theater owners have reopened, as a whole the public is wary to return. Despite the enforced guidelines the theaters would demand, such as social distancing and increased sanitation, the biggest concern involves the tightly enclosed space and air conditioning. Experts worry this could increase the risk of infection, especially if certain movie theaters don’t require masks. 

AMC Theaters, the world’s largest cinema operator, lost an astounding $561 million in revenue amidst the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Over 20 of some of the biggest movie releases lined up for 2020 were all pushed back due to these concerns, including Mulan, the much-anticipated remake that has continuously been unable to release. Originally planned to debut in March, it didn’t release officially on Disney+ for premier access until September 4.

“While the pandemic has changed our release plans for Mulan and we will continue to be flexible as conditions require, it has not changed our belief in the power of this film and its message of hope and perseverance,” Alan Horn, co-chairman and chief creative officer, and Alan Bergman, co-chairman of the company said in an interview with CNBC.

Mulan unveiled on Disney+ for a streaming price of $29.99 for premier access. While fans enthusiastically waited for months to watch the film, its release proved to be disappointingly controversial and overall problematic.

While Mulan was no doubt monumental for Asian representation in the American film industry, it overall felt wooden and lacking. Asian Americans couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the unchanging ways of the media industry and its stereotypes. An all-Asian cast with a white crew didn’t sit well with many.

Because of this disappointment, along with the film’s expressionless nature and main actress Yifei Lu’s numerous controversies, the movie took an even greater hit than what the pandemic could swing: boycotts. 

Most entertainment companies pulled the plug on all of their productions. Festivals, comic-cons, movie premiers, plays, concerts, and countless other events were suddenly forced to a halt due to Covid-19. 

Some of the biggest planned concert tours of the year were also adjourned, including the tours of Bon Jovi, Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Camilla Cabello, Alicia Keys, Guns N’ Roses, The Rolling Stones, BTS, NCT 127, and countless others. 

These skyrocketing postponements and cancellations devastated both fandoms and artists.

BTS’s 35-show Map of the Soul Tour, easily one of the biggest planned tours of 2020, was scheduled to kick off April 25 and 26 in Santa Clara, California, followed by three days in May at the Rose Bowl, then moving on to Texas, Orlando, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Canada, and ending in Soldier Field in Chicago. On April 28, the seven-piece boy group went on to cancel their entire world tour. 

Fans from all over the world of all fandoms have suffered the wrath of the concert cancellations right along with the artists themselves. And while many were beyond heartbroken to not have the chance to see their favorite artists live, most fandoms can agree they just want to see their idols safe.

For many musicians, performing in front of their fans is what keeps their passion for music alive. Not seeing the faces of their beloved fans felt like a void, as many artists have described.

The difficult feelings of loss and disappointment were ones that couldn’t be mended, but many artists have taken to online outlets to comfort their fans during these trying times, resorting to online concerts or live streams. 

I’m very sad to say that because of the current situation we will be having to cancel the North American tour,” South Korean band NCT 127’s Johnny tweeted. “We know that you guys were looking forward to the new tour as much as us. We’ll make sure to keep you guys smiling one way or another, and make sure that the next time we tour it’ll be the most magical. Thank you guys always, stay safe, stay healthy. We love you.”

Novelists and readers also felt discouraged by the pandemic right alongside the media industry’s musicians and movie casts. 

“Libraries and movie theaters had to close their doors during the quarantine. Although many have reopened recently, people have been slow to return. As for our school library, the circulation of books is way down,” Pelahatchie High School librarian Eles Renfroe shared.

“Only a handful of students are checking out books. This statistic is concerning because literacy is such a vital element of a well-rounded education. To reassure you all that books are safe, know that we quarantine the books when they return and require students to clean their hands with sanitizer before selecting a book,” Renfroe went on. “Visit the library when you arrive on campus in the morning or ask your teacher if you can come to the library during class. Let’s get back into the habit of loving to read a good book!”

Publishers and booksellers undoubtedly suffered during the lockdown. According to the New York Times magazine, total U.S. book sales in March were down a whopping 8.4 percent. And while the book industry perhaps proved to be more resilient with an already established online-purchasing norm, the declining numbers of revenue were still severe.

Educational resources were perhaps hit the most due to the closures of schools and colleges. Revenue from prekindergarten through 12th grade instructional materials fell more than half of what it was last year.

The entertainment industry will probably stay in hibernation this fall as publishing companies, Broadway, film production sets, movie theaters, museums, and concert halls continue to ponder the future of mass media. 

As for now, we can only have hope. The entertainment industry has taken massive damage of which the recovery outlook is frightening and questionable. While certain elements of entertainment can be consumed in isolation, the reliance on in-person events is not something that can be replaced so easily.

Just like the rest of society in these dismal times of Covid-19, entertainment enthusiasts are only filled with questions that have no answers.

What will entertainment culture look like post-Covid? Only time will tell.