Social distancing, pandemic reshape entertainment and media landscape

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The entertainment industry has always been changing and adapting with the times, now more than ever.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting personal interactivity on a global scale, various mediums of entertainment have had to make changes: some generous, some disappointing, and some that bode interesting implications for the future.

Film, music, television, radio, live theater, and numerous others have all been impacted in terms of production and release. Production calendars for broadcast television have been forced to shift around.

Delta College’s radio station, 93.5 FM, isn’t immune to differences in approach to broadcasting. Live content has been replaced with re-runs and pre-recorded content, some of which is done with equipment students have checked-out, or even what they have at home.

“We didn’t have much lead time to prepare, but due to the fact that we work in digital media, it was possible to transition,” said Adriana Brogger, Radio Television professor at Delta College.

“Our lab technician Britney Marquez has been instrumental in checking out equipment to our students, and our IT department set-up remote access to software so they could still edit. Of course we have become more flexible with our on-air standards, keeping in-mind that students are doing their best to work from home.”

Even though pre-recorded content is taking the place of this semester’s live content, the mission remains the same: inform, entertain, and communicate with the audience.

“Public broadcasting during times of crisis is an important way to serve our community. Our students have produced many PSAs that promote national organizations like the CDC, to even working with local groups like #StocktonStrong. Students are podcasting about their experience during this pandemic. I’m eager to hear those stories,” said Brogger.

Places offering live theater have delayed releases for shows and halted audition dates. Stockton Civic’s “August: Osage County,” which was originally supposed to be having performances from April 15 through May 3, has been postponed with new dates to be determined.

The “live” aspect of things is not completely lost in these times, however. 

Artists such as Diplo and Ben Gibbard are live streaming concerts, whether on a set or at home, to places such as Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch for people to enjoy.

Anyone who remotely enjoys film can feel the implications of having their movie theaters on temporary shut-down, even if they don’t frequently visit theaters for a moviegoing experience.

Upcoming films such as John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place: Part II” and Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” have been pushed back to fall, with some less-fortunate releases facing year-long delays. Delayed releases have shaken things up for franchise films, as Disney’s large slate of Marvel Studios entries will all get pushed back solely from the May-to-November delay of “Black Widow.”

With times being uncertain, some films currently out in theaters have been given a wide video-on-demand release for home platforms, be it through cable or different streaming services. 

The “in-home experience” is how many individuals are consuming newly released films right now. 

Sony’s “Bloodshot” and Disney’s “Onward” received their digital releases early, with Disney+ shortening the release gap of new content, likely bolstering the appeal of their service to the many people staying indoors. 

The idea of not having to wait months for a home release is appealing to some.

“I love watching new movies as they come out, but I don’t want to wait too long,” said Ly Huynh, member of Delta College’s Active Minds Club.

“I’d rather find the digital version and watch something while it’s new instead of waiting to go to the theater. The Sonic movie was still in theaters while it released on digital, and I got it. I think other movie companies should do this, as it could take months for theaters to reopen. They should take advantage of people spending more time at home.”

Pre-pandemic, there have been films debuting on exclusive streaming services for some time now, and digital home releases of major films have already been coming at least two weeks before their physical ones.

Could the theatrical release model change in the near-future, especially with a pandemic-influenced release shift? Will it be a change for the better? At this point, it’s up in the air.

One thing is for certain: many people love the live experience of art. Whether it’s a play, a theatrically-released film, or a concert – art can be just as much a social experience as it is an individual one.

Streaming service giant Netflix recently released Netflix Party – a desktop extension for streaming their library in a group setting. Synchronized video and a group chat may seem like small additions, but it shows that even providers benefiting from stay-at-home entertainment want to preserve a sense of togetherness.

Still, it’ll be nice to enjoy a cinematic experience in-person and on the big screen again.

“Looking at movies in 2020, I’m willing to wait as long as it takes to experience them in the theater,” said Antonio Robledo-Nova, a student at Delta College.

“It saddens me that theaters are closed for now. The best memories I had with my loved ones and myself were always there. I look forward to being able to watch a film, pay for overpriced popcorn, have a good laugh, and shed tears. Without theaters, I would never have fallen in love with film. That’s why I’m excited to get back to them.”