How has the world of entertainment been (un)entertained by COVID-19?

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Graphic by Nishika Minocha

Over the past few months we have been faced with an unprecedented pandemic which has left us confined within the four walls of our homes. With so many of us working or studying from home, it is no surprise that many of us have turned to the world of film and television to spend the extra time we now have. Unfortunately, like most other industries, the entertainment world has also been affected by COVID-19.

The first thing to look at, of course, is the monetary loss. There are predictions that the global box office will lose over $5 billion, with movie theatres around the world either not functioning or functioning at reduced capacities.

However, the fact that people couldn’t go to the indoor theatres wasn’t a deterrent for all moviegoers. This was great news for North American drive-in theatres, which have now seen a sudden surge in popularity. 

However, that popularity will likely have to rely on movies that have already been released, as many movies have delayed their planned theatrical releases. These delays have created a domino effect that has resulted in movies, originally scheduled as late as August 2022, to have been delayed further.

Of course, not all movies have a fixed release date. This has been on-demand streaming services’ time to shine, with many movies having cancelled their theatrical releases altogether to be directly released on one of these services. Perfect timing for HBO Max’s release, if you ask me.

Furthermore, the Academy and Hollywood Foreign Press Association have both allowed movies released direct-to-streaming into next year’s Oscars and the Golden Globes respectively. 

As of now, this decision is only in place for the coming year, but it may lead to more demand for this rule to be made permanent. There have been arguments for the inclusion of streaming services in these awards for some time now, and this may just be the tipping point.

Speaking of awards, various award ceremonies have also been affected by this pandemic. While we were lucky enough that the Academy Awards this year were not affected, the same will not be true for next year. As of now, it has been decided that the Oscars will be delayed from its original planned date of Feb. 28, 2021. However, the new date has not yet been finalized. 

It is almost certain that the Academy will not let the awards be canceled, but there is a chance that the awards will not be as grand as they usually are. Another concern is that with the loss the industry is facing this year, many companies will not be in a position to spend large amounts of money on their Oscar campaigns.

Any company that has furloughed its workers in these times is probably not going to have a huge budget for awards. There have even been calls to not have a red carpet next year and instead to use the ceremony as a benefit to collect money to help those in the industry who need it the most, like the production crew and studio assistants.

Another major ceremony to face the brunt of COVID-19 is the annual Lifetime Achievement Ceremony, presented by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Every year, the AFI hosts a ceremony to honor one individual for their contribution to American motion pictures. This year the awardee was the extremely talented Dame Julie Andrews. Many of her fans believed that this was long due, since many of her peers and even juniors had already received this distinguished honour. So imagine the disappointment when the ceremony was postponed from April to an unknown date in the summer, and is likely to be postponed even further.

Also affected by the pandemic are the various film festivals around the world, all of which have either been canceled or are expected to be canceled. However, every cloud has a silver lining. Tribeca Enterprises partnered with YouTube to organize the online film festival, ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival.’ This 10-day festival ran from May 29 to June 7, with films premiering for free on YouTube. 

This festival featured films curated by many international film festivals, including the big five: Toronto (TIFF), Berlin (Berlinale), Venice, Sundance, and Cannes, as well as other major film festivals including New York (NYFF), Sydney, Mumbai (MAMI) and  Tribeca. Other film festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Greenwich International Film Festival (GIFF) have also created online content this year. Luckily for those of us who will be in the area in September, TIFF, despite having already participated in the We Are One festival, has not given up hope for in-person programming and is still scheduled from September 10 to September 21. 

While most of the September programming is expected to be online as well, the organizers are planning on taking advantage of the rising popularity of drive-in theatres to allow in-person components to the festival. The TIFF executives are also hoping that some parts of the festival will still be able to go on within the constraints of whatever social distancing constraints are in place in September.

Now, on to actual movies to look out for. The first one is the 2011 film starring Kate Winslet and Matt Damon, Contagion, which depicts a virus outbreak eerily similar to the current pandemic. This movie went from being the 270th most-watched Warner Bros. movie in December, to being the 2nd most-watched movie by March this year.

The January 2020 Netflix docuseries Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is a really popular choice in the age of COVID-19, especially for its fortunate time of release. 

The filmmaking legend, Martin Scorsese, used this pandemic to self-shoot a short film exploring social distancing and self-isolation. Truly, where there’s a will there’s a way. 

Finally, over the next few years, we will be seeing many movies exploring the virus or set in these times, and many filmmakers around the world have already started registering related titles.

As it turns out, the wait for the first COVID-19 themed movie is not that far away, with one of the earliest one set to release in July. The Canadian thriller drama, Corona: Fear is a Virus, will explore xenophobia and racism in the times of COVID-19. So look out for that next month.

Since I have nowhere to go right now, I will go and browse through some titles on Netflix. I suggest you do the same.

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