The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world in every area of life, from grocery to the arts, from politics to the military. However, the movie industry is facing an unprecedented blackout that has no simple solution in sight.
One might ask: “what problem does the entire industry have? The theatres are closed and they’re the ones who are going out of business. Hollywood will be just fine, right?” Wrong. Yes, movie theatres are closed but this is only a small fraction of the movie industry. It’s merely the consumer arm of the entire business. With the introduction of state shutdowns and COVID safety measures taking place, the movie theatres have certainly been hurt due to either having to shutter their doors due to state mandates or reopening and having a much-limited capacity for how many patrons they can host and what they are allowed to offer in terms of products and service. There’s also the problem of cleaning which as any movie theatre worker will tell you, never gets done as well as it should in the time allotted between movies.
Moving away from theatres, it’s important to remember that Hollywood and its subsidiary industries are all but shut down as well. Actors are not working in live action films right now, makeup artists are not putting the goods on celebrity faces, writers are probably still sitting in open coffee shops writing, but they’re the outlier in this scenario. Like many Americans, the performance side of the movie industry is hard hit with unemployment or reduced working capability. Why does this pose such an issue?
The answer lies in the system. The movie industry works by constantly churning out content for mass consumption and movies take a long time to produce. The average life cycle of a movie consists of massive production time and costs with actors recording scenes, directors making changes midway through, reshoots if necessary, editors piecing shots together, etc. It’s a lot of effort for not always a big return. Right now, the industry has a stockpile of movies that are not released yet, still in the coffer. The only question begging is if the coffer runs out before the pandemic does?
We are headed towards a massive entertainment media blackout or at least a shift in format. If the pandemic outlasts the coffer, we are headed towards a media environment practically devoid of live action film, merely because of the nature of the beast. However, this is not the end of the world for movies. Film as an art form is only about 100 years old. It’s gone through some massive changes in that time as anyone with eyes can attest. The next big change for the entire industry is a renaissance in animation.
With more advanced technology than ever before, computer generated imaging software can create lifelike scenes and environments in the right hands. The turn to animation, either traditional or computer generated, is the only avenue that makes sense. Films created in this manner do not require much in-person work. Actors can record dialogue with the right equipment safely from their own homes. Animators and other graphic artists can create the visual element remotely as well.
Regardless of the future, there is a brave new world for movies and television, which can provide a realm of possibilities, both in opportunity and failure.