21st April 2021

Coronavirus and its Impact on Entertainment Globally


A month ago, I jumped on a plane to Australia with my two children in the midst of the Coronavirus panic in Hong Kong thinking this would be a little blip, a small hiatus in our expat life. I fully expected it to interfere with my freelance work. All my March and April planned projects were in China and clearly fighting a virus takes priority over entertainment gigs. But I did not expect the extent of the impact this epidemic (soon to be pandemic) would have on entertainment globally.

At the end of January, after the virus forced a shut down of the Disney Parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, all resident running shows in selected provinces and cities in China and the closure of casinos and entertainment in Macau; the travel restrictions coming in and out of China that followed started to affect the feasibility of major conferences and events around the world, especially those relying on attendants from China and its surroundings. I’ve had colleagues in Australia, USA, the Middle East and UK lose projects and gigs this month, and also in the coming months with no plans for future dates.

Unfortunately, the environment in which live entertainment exists ie; groups of people coming together is exactly the environment which allows the coronavirus (COVID-19) to spread. A church group in South Korea, a family at a Hot Pot dinner in Hong Kong, a buffet at a festival in Wuhan. No wonder all gatherings, entertainment or otherwise are being quashed as countries, governments and health authorities try to control the spread.

So 2020 is turning out to be a bumpy year for entertainment.

I am sure the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics (July) and Dubai 2020 Expo (October) are nervously watching the action as they head up two of the biggest events of 2020.

And as the virus has migrated to other countries, the shut down continues. Tokyo Disney, Tokyo Legoland, Universal Studios Japan, The Louvre, Paris. Airlines are expected to take a 30 Billion dollar hit so you can only imagine how that will affect tourism and entertainment venues globally as people stop traveling.

When the coronavirus broke out, the first thing my husband said to me was “Wait for it, there will be a case onboard a cruise ship and it will have to be quarantined”. Jay worked on cruise ships for years, and unfortunately they happen to be a great petri dish for viruses. Sure enough, a few days later the Diamond Princess was quarantined. So the cruise industry (and its subsequent entertainment) has taken a hit also. Although the industry is reluctant to release data, the cruise business is at around a 15% drop according to a New York Times article.

While many may draw parallels to the SARS virus, SARS only killed around 774 people. COVID-19 as of today, (March 3, 2020) has hit a total of 3119 fatalities and we aren’t done yet.

And although we in the entertainment industry may be complaining about the lack of business, there are people out there fighting for their life so I’ll be happy to lay low in a little country town in Australia for now.

Hopefully, we see a return to normality in the second half of 2020, fatalities remain at a minimum, the spread is controlled and companies, contractors, and freelancers in entertainment can stay afloat.

If you are looking for me, I’ll be at home drawing up a family budget to make sure we can get through the year unscathed.

Also by Anna Robb:

Mastering a Skill: The 10,000 Hours Rule

Advocacy for Mental Health even if you are OK

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Anna Robb is Co-Founder and Managing Director for TheatreArtLife. Anna is an experienced Producer/Production Stage Manager. Her 20-year work history spans Asia Pacific, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. She has worked for companies such as Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone Entertainment Group, Christie Digital Systems and The Sydney Opera House. Anna was an integral part of the research and development, training and formation, creation and operation of the 250 million dollar aquatic show, The House of Dancing Water in Macau. She also maintained the daily operations of this complex show as the head of Stage Management for 7 years. Anna has been employed on over 70 shows in the areas of concerts, arena events, corporate events, trade shows, musical theatre, plays, dance, circus, outdoor festivals and mega shows. Anna holds a honours degree in Design for Theatre and Television and is passionate about the evolution of the industry.

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