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Entertainment: Bug accelerates digital destiny

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | China Daily | Updated: 2021-02-11 11:07
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The Flaming Lips give a socially-distanced "Space Bubble" concert, using individual inflatable bubbles to avoid the spread of COVID-19, in Oklahoma City, in the United States on Jan 22. [Photo/Agencies]

As lockdowns force people inside, the way we treat ourselves takes a turn

With theaters operating at reduced capacities or closed across the United States, cultural activities canceled and more people shifting to the digital world, analysts say the pandemic may change the entertainment industry forever.

As the COVID-19 outbreak keeps millions of Americans at home and searching for entertainment, different parts of the industry are striving to meet that demand through streaming services.

The Sundance Film Festival was held virtually this year-the first time since the 1980s. Films were available to stream via Sundance's digital platform across the country. Other major film festivals, including the Tribeca, New York and Toronto International, have offered films online and seen their reach considerably expanded.

Organizers of the New York Film Festival said attendance across virtual and drive-in screenings rose more than 9 percent over 2019 levels, and nearly 40,000 tickets for streaming were sold across all 50 US states as well as Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to entertainment news website Deadline.

With concert venues shuttered, artists and musical institutions are taking their shows online. Justin Bieber livestreamed a New Year's Eve concert on Dec 31 in partnership with T-Mobile; country music singer Morgan Wallen released a new album with a livestream on Facebook and YouTube, according to a list compiled by Billboard that included hundreds of virtual music events from March 2020 to last month.

Twitch, best known as a video game streaming service, is a popular option for musicians to entertain their fans. Sessions, a live musicstreaming platform launched a year before the pandemic started, has grown rapidly in the past year.

"So while we never imagined the current situation, there's no question that COVID has catapulted virtual concerts to the top of mind for everyone in the industry," Tim Westergren, co-founder of Sessions, told PC Magazine. "It has dramatically accelerated the engagement of artists and their teams. We've had to work furiously to scale every part of our operations to keep up."

Another platform, Stageit, has been offering livestream shows for lesser-known artists for years, but only got popular when the country was under stay-at-home orders. The company told Variety that it made $884,000 in two weeks in April 2020, compared with $500,000 in all of 2019.

"This is not a short-term change. This is a shift in the way the business operates," Stephen White, chief executive officer of Stageit, told The Washington Post in a recent article. "It's not going back to the way it was before-livestreaming is definitely here to stay."

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