There were few industries that were as changed by the Covid-19 pandemic as entertainment. We all know how it went; we couldn’t go to movie theaters, we couldn’t go to concerts, and even movie production shut down for a time.
While the shutdown brought about extreme losses in revenue for the entertainment industry and its home city of LA, it also forced the world of entertainment to change and grow in exciting new directions.
That brings us to today. The entertainment industry is thriving once again, but it looks a little different than it did in 2019. Let’s explore how the entertainment industry in Los Angeles responded to the pandemic and came out on the other side. In other words, how are we bouncing back?
When the novel coronavirus first made its way to the US in 2020, and we began shuttering ourselves inside, the movie industry was one of the first to feel its impacts. In the United States, theatrical entertainment revenue dropped by around $9 billion in 2019, totaling a measly $2.2 billion in 2020. TV networks were also impacted, with canceled sporting events leaving them with a lack of programming.
Movie production slowed and stopped completely in the early days of the pandemic, hitting the thousands of studio employees extremely hard. While the Motion Picture Association and associated companies established relief funds, such as Netflix and NBC Universal’s “hardship funds” of $150 million each, this did little to counteract the financial strain many of these families felt.
As travel crawled to a halt as well, tourism in LA also dropped precipitously. Unsurprisingly, fewer people in LA led to impacts on a wide variety of businesses indirectly related to the entertainment industry, from studio tours to other forms of in-person entertainment like theme parks, bowling alleys, and arcades.
There’s no question that the pandemic upended the entertainment industry. But perhaps this was a good thing…
The pandemic forced the entertainment industry to pay attention to what viewers actually want: at-home entertainment. Since 1995, the number of movie tickets sold per year has barely changed in the U.S., and movie studios were releasing fewer and fewer films each year– choosing instead to release films on their own streaming services rather than in theaters.
The pandemic pushed this trend toward prioritizing streaming over theater-going forward significantly. Major studios began releasing movies directly at home rather than in theaters. Universal, Warner Bros., and Disney all canceled theater releases of their movies in favor of putting them online. And it worked – new customers came to online streaming platforms in droves. In fact, Netflix set a record with its addition of 26 million customers in the first half of 2020 alone.
As the pandemic continues and restrictions loosen, many of us have become used to the pleasures of watching movies and shows at home. Luckily, many studios have begun the practice of dual releases of the same movie on the big screen and at home, at the same time. For example, the movie Godzilla vs. Kong, one of the first movies to be released after the pandemic in March 2021, was the highest-grossing movie in over a year, bringing in around $69.5 million in the first two weekends after release. The movie was simultaneously released on HBO Max, Warner Media’s new streaming service, where it was the most-watched content in a single weekend since HBO Max’s start (in May 2020).
It wasn’t just movie studios that adapted to bring entertainment home to us. Gaming companies also began ramping up their offerings with new and enticing options, from increasingly effective virtual reality (VR) headsets to new at-home gaming options. For example, one escape room in downtown Los Angeles began offering virtual escape rooms that people could play at home. Today, they offer VR escape room experiences. It’s clear that every nook and cranny of the entertainment industry has shifted in response to the pandemic.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll fully return to the emphasis on in-person entertainment, the entertainment industry is going back to work in person to bring movies to the big screen. But as the movie industry returns to in-person work, they’ve consistently experienced the highest numbers of Covid outbreaks in LA County. Despite these high cases, LA County’s Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer explained that the entertainment industry’s cases might be so high because they’re being so careful. Hollywood has been quite proactive about screening for positive cases, meaning that they simply catch more positive cases. That said, Ms. Ferrer also noted last month that LA County would reinstate a mask mandate if cases continued to climb.
As we move forward through the pandemic, Los Angeles’ entertainment industry remains a prime example of Covid’s ability to bring about innovation. The movie industry continues to do what they do best while still adapting to what consumers want and maintaining reasonable safety precautions. Despite having the odds stacked against them, Hollywood pushed through, emerging on the other side as a new and improved leader in LA business’ triumphant rebound from Covid.
David Evans is a freelance writer covering topics on interactive games and entertainment. He writes to share knowledge with companies and individuals about how games and entertainment can help with self-improvement, team building, and leadership.