Keeping Entertainment at a Distance

How the Sports and Cinema Industry is Adapting to New Realities 

Earlier this month, a photo circulated throughout various social media platforms showing an excerpt from an Italian newspaper from the year 1962. The image showed a number of people driving cars in a busy street, however they weren’t driving regular vehicles. Rather they were driving these strange futuristic vehicles, which consisted of only one driver’s seat, which was enclosed in a vertical glass dome. The reason why this image was circulated online was because the magazine that had featured it supposedly predicted that this was what driving would look like in 2022, thereby implying that the Italian magazine predicted that social distancing would become a phenomenon in the 2020s and even worse implying that it would become a necessary measure for a good part of this decade. While it is true that this image was featured in a 1962 issue of Domenica del Corriere newspaper, the year 2022 was never mentioned in the publication and more importantly the newspaper didn’t predict that we would be using single person cars for protective reasons. Rather, it said that due to the increasing use of cars, people in the future might try to adopt smaller sized vehicles to reduce traffic in the streets. 
 
In other developments, the German Bundesliga restarted last week making it the first European domestic football league to resume after temporarily stopping due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. While this was welcome news to soccer fans that have been yearning to watch matches again, some oddities that occurred during the games did raise some eyebrows. Namely, there was the fact that players on the substitute benches were sitting two metres apart and wearing masks. This was strange because none of the players on the pitch were adorning facemasks, and the fact that no social distancing between players is feasibly possible in a contact sport like soccer.  As such, it seemed redundant to implement social distancing on the substitute bench, although an argument could be made that if social distancing is possible during any point of a soccer game, then it is best for everyone to do so in order to minimize the risk of infection. While Germany seems to be on track to complete its season, many other soccer leagues are struggling with this conundrum; indeed many leagues have voided their seasons and awarded whichever team was league leader with the title. While this will be a problem that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, there are questions on how leisure, business and travel venues can be reopened while maintaining the safety of their customers. 
 
SPORTS EVENTS WITHOUT FANS
 
As the world of sports is still coming to terms with the pandemic, there is one obvious solution to how you can protect audiences: simply playing matches without any fans present at stadiums. While this might seem like a straightforward solution, there is one massive hurdle: money. Though it is true that ticket sales aren’t the only major source of income for sports teams, as factors such as advertising deals and sponsors have grown to be one of the biggest contributors to a sports team’s annual earnings. However, the lack of ticket sales would be a massive monetary loss for the world of sports, and many administrators are trying to find a viable solution to the problem. 
 
Major League Baseball has had to delay its start to the season due to the pandemic, and now it is looking towards playing games without fans present at the stadium. To compensate for this loss, the league has sought to cut players’ wages, however the MLB Players Association (the union representing MLB players) have rejected the prospect of salary cuts. The Association argues that since the players are risking their lives playing these games, then they shouldn’t be asked to get a pay cut. While the MLB is still trying to resolve the problem, it is reportedly working on a list of new regulations to reduce the risk of infection such as banning hugs and high fives during celebrations, destroying baseball bats that have been used by multiple players and administrating 10,000 tests a week on players and their families. Meanwhile, the National Football League has yet to make any new changes since their annual season hasn’t started yet, moreover it has recently released its tentative schedule of games assuming that the season will go on as normal. The NBA’s current basketball season has been suspended since March, however it seems that it now looking to resume the season soon as it is making preparations to administer anti-body tests on players to see if players have previously contracted the virus and therefore, in theory, built immunity against it. 
 
The English Premier League, the most popular soccer league in the world, is looking to resume its suspended season as Liverpool is looking to end its 30-year league drought. Thus far, we don’t know how the Premier League is going to restart but we do know that they’re looking to do so by the summer. A list of regulations are rumoured to be introduced, for example football halves might be shortened, and more substitutions might be allowed to alleviate player tiredness due to fixture congestion. 
 




Schalke's Austrian forward Guido Burgstaller (C) arrives with a face mask to the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 on May 16, 2020 in Dortmund, western Germany as the season resumed following a two-month absence due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Getty)

 

 
DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATRES STRIKE BACK? 
 
As many countries around the world introduced social distancing measures, movie theatres have shut its doors to avid moviegoers. One month prior to the pandemic being declared, Sonic the Hedgehogwas breaking box office records and receiving accolades from film critics. This prompted some people to post jokes online stating that Sonicmight end up winning best film in the 2021 Oscars should movie theatres continue to be closed. All jokes aside, the movie industry is facing many obstacles, as many productions have had to stop, while many other finished films have had to delay their release date. While major Hollywood productions might be able to afford rigorous testing for cast and crew to keep up their schedules, smaller budget movies will struggle on that front. However, news broke out this week that, Songbird, aMichael Bay produced film will begin production within weeks. Although, it is being produced by one of Hollywood’s major directors/producers, it is said to be made in the same manner of low budget indie paranormal thrillers. Moreover, its director Adam Mason has worked on a show called “Into the Dark” which regularly feature episodes with as few as three characters and a few as one setting. As a result, he can implement such artistic choices to comply with social distancing safety. An article published by Indiewire also suggested that several indie filmmakers are adapting to the pandemic and might start doing their own safety measures such as banning face to face shots, not allowing more than one actor in the same room and only allowing script practicing via call applications such as Zoom. So on that front, the indie film industry might have an edge over mainstream cinema. 
 
But what of movie theatres? Earlier in April, Universal Studios decided to conduct a bold experiment. Trolls World Tour, a sequel to the 2016 animated movie Trollswas set to be released in theatres that month. As such, Universal had the option of delaying the release of the movie, but instead it opted to do a digital release on a number of streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play. While this might have been a risk, it ultimately paid off as it made 100 Million dollars from digital rentals, breaking records for the biggest ever-digital movie release. This raised questions over weather or not other studios will follow suit, and how profitable such an action could be. An argument could be made that the fact that many children were out of schools during this time period helped ramp up rentals, as such there is no guarantee that other film genres can be as successful. Meanwhile, in the US the closure of regular movie theatres, saw a revival of drive-in theatres. This was a huge blast to the past considering that drive-in theatres peaked in popularity in the 1950s, and they have been on a downward spiral ever since. However, because moviegoers can watch a film from the safety of their cars, then they can maintain social distancing safety measures. While a revival of drive-in theatres might work in a country like the US, which has a historic culture of drive thru theatres, such a revival might not be viable for other countries that lack such a cultural connection with the institution. Nevertheless, drive in theatres have been appearing across the world as of late, as countries like Spain, France and the UAE have been setting up their own drive in cinemas many of which showing older movies. Although, we are still adapting to our new post-COVID-19, it seems that our entertainment industry, which we took for granted, might still need to go through some growing pains before it fully redevelop itself for our new reality.