A Year of Quarantine - Entertainment Then and Now
By Brenda Martinez '21
(An online concert from the band Stray Kids. Photo: Say K)
It has now been a full year since we began to quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were initially told that it would only last two weeks, but those weeks turned into months, and those months
became a year. As a result, companies and individuals were forced to adjust to a new way of life in order to ensure the safety of the public. One of the most significant changes was the consumption of media, such as music, television shows, and movies. These things play a large role in our culture, but they had to halt and then reshape as a result of the pandemic.
Before COVID-19, we had grown accustomed to the colossal marketing of the music industry. This included meet-and-greets, interviews, variety shows, concerts, and award shows for artists to engage with their fans and promote their music. Public-health regulations called for a ceasing of large gatherings, causing all of these types of events to be cancelled. With the inability to reach a multitude of fans in the traditional way, it seemed as though the music industry would be put on pause for the duration of the quarantine, but this was not the case. Instead of halting the production of their music, many artists continued to release albums, but their promotions took a more virtual form.
To connect with fans on a more personal level, many artists held livestreams where they could interact with fans in the comments and on video. Interviews that were used to promote their albums were now filmed at their homes instead of being in a studio with a live audience. Additionally, large award shows, like Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), filmed their performances beforehand and only a few artists were present to accept the awards.
The most impactful of these changes, however, was the introduction of virtual concerts. The functionality of the virtual concerts were similar to traditional concerts in the sense that the artist would perform their songs on a stage and occasionally interact with and talk to the fans. The main difference was that the fans who purchased tickets were not present in the seats of the venue, but instead they were displayed on a panel of screens where the artists could see them as the concert was streamed live. Online concerts were not the ideal way of experiencing live music, for both the artist and the audience, because of the inability for fans to interact with one another, but it was still a large improvement over not having any concerts at all.
Another major entertainment market that proceeded virtually was the cinema. Before the pandemic, we had all experienced a crowded movie theater where hundreds of people would pack into a room to watch the newest movie on a huge screen. When the pandemic began, movie theaters were some of the first places to shut down, and in many areas they have not reopened since then. Movie studios had already been preparing to release movies in 2020, but they could no longer rely on movie theaters to be the main distributors of their films. Instead, they turned to streaming platforms to make a profit for their movies and for the public to be able to view them. This was done by companies, both large and small, and with movies of all genres. Even some of the most highly anticipated movies were released on streaming services. The largest of these were the live-action adaptation of Mulan, and Wonder Woman 1984. Both films were set to release in theaters at the beginning of 2020, but when the theaters were shut down, companies turned to online platforms like Disney+ and HBO Max instead.
With the online releases of movies, the viewing experience has drastically changed. You no longer have to arrive early to secure your favorite seat in the theater or to buy popcorn from the concessions stand. Instead, you can watch the movies from the comfort of your home, while eating homemade snacks and having the ability to take a break without missing part of the movie. That being said, at-home viewing is not as grand as it is in the movie theaters, with their huge screens and speakers that are able to immerse you into the sounds of the movie. Even without the experience of a social outing of going to a movie theater, it is still nice to be able to see new content while having been stuck in our homes for so long.
It has been a year since COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, and it has affected many areas of our lives. The way that we go to school or work has changed and so has the way that we consume entertainment, like music and movies. Despite the difficulties that we have faced in the past year, we have shown that we were able to adapt to life under quarantine, but hopefully we will soon be able to return to our pre-COVID lives.