Looking Past COVID: How Entertainment Moves Forward

by Transmute Jun

The holidays are here, but the world in which we live is different from what it was before. 2020 has been a crazy year, one that we will never forget. This time of year, the FoCC Blog usually writes articles about the things for which we are thankful, the gifts we would like to receive, and our resolutions for the next year. While we anticipate returning to that format in 2021, somehow, it didn’t feel right for 2020 to act as if the world was the same as it was a year ago.

We all know how COVID has affected our daily lives, our families, travel, the economy, and our medical industry, among other things. What is often ignored is the significant impact it has had on the entertainment industry. While technically, entertainment is not ‘essential’, it is the main thing humans crave after our immediate needs (safety, shelter, food) have been satisfied. Providing these other things is just existing, but finding joy in life (in entertainment, in relationships) is living. We at FoCC Blog intend to live through the holiday season, while at the same time looking forward to a better world next year.

There is no question that the entertainment industry suffered a big blow in 2020. Productions for television and film stopped in their tracks. Stage shows and productions, concert tours, and theme parks were shut down. And yes, conventions were cancelled. As a result, many entertainment projects were delayed, truncated, or abandoned. Certainly, subscriptions to streaming platforms such as  Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ went through the roof, and sales of video and tabletop games shot up, but those bright spots were overshadowed by great losses elsewhere. Even now, while television is on its way to recovering (minus those programs that were unfortunately cancelled) film is still struggling. Movie theatres are questioning their business models and have been significantly hindered in their reopening efforts by local regulations and lack of film releases. It is likely that this landscape will be forever changed as a result of the events of 2020.

Conventions went virtual. We saw virtual panels, virtual artists’ alleys, and virtual meet & greets. For traditional pop culture cons, this was life support. Panels on a computer felt distant, without the same excitement and emotional connection as being in the room, sharing it with friends, or asking a question of the participants. Vendors and artists suffered due to limited exposure to con attendees or may have been overlooked with the shift to virtual exhibit floors (or no exhibit floor at all), and many whose livelihoods depend upon conventions were hurt, with some being forced to close their doors.

One bright spot was the rise of virtual gaming conventions, such as Gen Con Online. While playing games in person is preferable to online, virtual gaming held onto the social interaction that gamers enjoy, that was so necessary and welcome during this year of shutdowns and lock-ins. Although in-person gaming cons will return, it is likely that virtual versions will continue, allowing gamers from around the world to interact and play with each other. It is great to see something good coming from such a horrible year.

For everything else, there is hope. The fact that television and movies are back in production is a very positive sign that entertainment is once again a priority as it adapts to the changing situation. Theme parks around the country are slowly opening up, albeit in limited areas and at limited capacities. And rapid COVID tests (and the strong possibility of a vaccine) are shaping the possibilities for future travel and mass gatherings. Recently, Ticketmaster put forth a proposal to require all event attendees to have taken the COVID vaccine, or have a negative test within the past couple of days. This would allow concerts to take place again, and once we can fill arenas, it won’t be long before pop culture conventions return as well. Likely, this won’t happen all at once, but in a few, select areas of the country, then slowly spreading across the nation, and the world. Life will go on, and it will return to something approximating what it was. And once it does, I know that I will appreciate it more than ever, while at the same time understanding and mourning what we have lost.

As 2020 comes to a close, we all need to be thankful that we are still here, and for the love of our friends and family. For next year, we can look forward to moving back toward ‘normal’, and seeing each other in person once again.

FoCC Blog wishes all of our readers a peaceful holiday, and all the best for the new year.

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she's not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.

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