Love (of film) in the time of coronavirus

“Temporarily closed” signs greet visitors to the Regal cinema in Winter Park, Florida.

Exclusive to MeierMovies, October 12, 2020

Watching football and tennis this weekend on television made me sad. I wasn’t sad for the sports themselves. In fact, I was joyful, as I’m a pretty big fan of college athletics and an even bigger tennis enthusiast, and was glad that spectators were able to attend the events.

I was instead sad that these events allowed thousands – in many cases, more than 10,000 – spectators while film and theatre are dying. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as our culture values sports over art. But seeing the disparity between sports (which are slowly getting back to normal) and the film industry (which has almost completely shut down because of COVID-19 concerns) made me weep for our priorities.

After a brief reopening, Regal Cinemas recently announced they are closing all U.S. locations again. And the parade of delays of major studio releases continues unabated – even into December, with Disney announcing that their latest Pixar movie, Soul, will skip cinemas and instead go straight to streaming, at least in the United States. Shame on them for damaging the long-term success and cultural viability of cinema. (See CBS News for more information on that.)

As COVID-19 death rates decrease and we learn more about the virus and the negative effects of lockdowns, I’m reminded that we can slowly return to large gatherings. Sports have proved that. Of course, with indoor activities, the risk is greater. But some film festivals and even some live theatre events have taken place over the last couple of months. (Kudos specifically to the Florida Film Festival and the Garden Theater, both in the greater Orlando, Florida, area.) The events looked a bit different, but they worked, with no adverse effects or reports of “super-spreaders.”

It can be done. We – and specifically our political leaders – must step up to the plate (to again mix in a sports metaphor) to save film, theatre, music and other in-person art events. And in those instances when events simply can’t take place yet – such as on Broadway or in the West End, where theatres rely on packed houses for financial profitability – governments around the world must be willing to discuss financial bailouts on par with those being discussed for other industries. The show must go on.

© 2020 MeierMovies, LLC