On the evening of September 1st, more than 2500 theaters and live venues across the country simultaneously cast a crimson glow to bring awareness to the industry’s suffering, in a movement appropriately named, Red Alert. Venues from Madison Square Garden to our local Paradise Theater in Paonia were lit with red lights, sending a message to urge congress to vote for the RESTART Act. Several of these venues remain red to this day, as the effects of COVID-19 continue to batter entertainment workers and theaters alike.
The entertainment industry as a whole has largely been shuttered since March, spawning unemployment and lost income, and perpetuating the disappearance of resources necessary for the livelihood of all entertainment workers. About 95% of all live entertainment events have been canceled, creating a ripple effect of job loss affecting more than 12 million people. The annual economic impacts of the industry are estimated at over $1 trillion, outpacing transportation, agriculture, and tourism.
In addition to live productions, the pandemic has also taken its toll on the movie industry and the nature of Hollywood itself, sending its own myriad of ripple effects across the country and eventually to our hometown theaters in Delta County. Film production ground to a halt and cinemas closed their doors nationwide. Many movie theaters have reopened, with limiting social distancing guidelines, only to show second-run films at a discount price. Independent venues, who were already experiencing significant declines in attendance, have been especially hard hit.
These industries are far from alone in their financial suffering, but in a time when escape from the pressures of life seems more important than ever, the opportunity to lose ourselves for a couple of hours at a live show or a new movie has been taken from us. And although some may be hard-pressed to have empathy for wealthy musicians, famous actors, or Hollywood moguls, when a greater understanding of how the economic impacts have spread to millions of American workers, some in our own community, the loss becomes both tangible and personal to all of us.
Many of these local entertainment workers are our friends and neighbors. They are the music promoters, the small theater employees, and the local musicians who have built a life entertaining us. It remains unseen whether or not these institutions, artists, and countless support personnel will receive the assistance they are seeking. Perhaps, when some semblance of normalcy returns, we will reflect back on this surreal snapshot in time, and we’ll do our very best to not take for granted what was always there for us - until suddenly, the show did not go on.