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SpoilerTV's Weekly Round Table: 82nd Edition (COVID-19)

Hello and welcome to a new edition of SpoilerTV's Weekly Round Table! Joining us this week is Dahne (DH), Alejandra Molina (AJ), Giulia Del Buono (GB), Naomi Anna (NK), Katherine Meusey (KM), Lisa Macklem (LM), SarahR (SR), Jamie Coudeville (JC), Laura B (DL), and myself (ZF). You just have to sit back enjoy the read and join the discussion in the comment section down below.

Note: This week's Weekly Round Table includes lots of discussion about COVID-19 (commonly known as the coronavirus) and its effects on the entertainment industry. As this topic is stressful for many, please proceed with caution.

Several shows recently halted production due to COVID-19, and no doubt other shows will follow suit. It was confirmed that this will delay the airing schedule. How do you think this will impact viewership, and how will shows handle airing new episodes once they go back into production?

Dahne: This whole thing reminds me of the writer's strike in 2007. There was a big entertainment hiatus, which in turn did effect some shows more than others. Ratings always drop in the spring anyway, but there may be shows that cannot recover from an extra-long hiatus. The biggest issue will be how long filming is delayed. If they start cutting episodes, storylines may feel rushed. That's what happened to Supernatural in Season 3. My bigger concern though would be the new pilot season. Depending on how many pilots get delayed, it could impact what gets picked up and what the start date for the new fall season will be. In the end, it will all depend on how long these delays are. However, I would bet that once episodes are filmed, there will be a rush to get them aired as soon as possible, which may feel like the feast after the famine.

Alejandra: I feel like it could go either way. Part of me thinks that maybe viewership numbers might suffer if the airing schedule gets pushed into summer, but at the same time if by summer people are still not traveling as much it might make them stay home and watch tv. Already weak viewership in certain shows might mean they will get cancelled if they haven't been renewed yet, but also pilots being delayed as well might mean these already airing shows might get renewed.

Giulia: It's definitely going to be very difficult for shows to follow their usual schedule. This, I think, was a very smart move, in order to prevent the spreading of the virus. Safety first. I think this won't impact viewership in a major way, especially because it will be a relief to see those shows come back. It'll help people go back to normal, in a way.

Naomi: I think TV viewership may take a slight hit. It hasn't been that great anyway due to streaming platforms and DVR capabilities. I think people will binge-watch since they are in the house for a bit.

Once shows get back to production, they should probably air the last one or two episodes before they took a break to refresh their viewers' memories and get them back to being excited.

Katherine: Some shows are cutting their seasons short. An article in USA Today listed shows like NCIS that are not just halting production temporarily, but are ending their current seasons with what they’ve already filmed. NCIS, for example, will end with 20 episodes instead of the 24 they’d planned. This adds yet another layer of confusion to the whole situation. I think that with various situations like this and possible rescheduling of newly-filmed episodes maybe into the summer depending on when they air and what changes will need to be made to the planned schedules will cause a lot of confusion. As a loyal viewer, I’ll most likely grumble through the changes made to my favorite shows schedule-wise, but it may make me turn away from shows I was interested in because they may not be worth the effort.

Lisa: Firstly, I commend every show that shut down production. I don't think it will impact viewership. We're all in this together, and I think by now, no one is going to go off in a snit. People are invested in these shows if they've watched to episode 19 of a season! People are also very used to waiting long periods between seasons now due to streaming and binging. How networks will handle the disruption to the season is a good question. Some may simply take the limbo episodes and tack them on to the beginning of next season. Shows in their last season or bubble shows may be a different matter. The CW could choose to go with a "two-hour special event" to finish off Supernatural for instance.

Sarah: I think that most shows will take a big hit and some may not recover. However, there is a slim possibility that there will be a spike in viewers depending on if people who have self-isolated have decided to catch on the shows they've recorded.

Jamie: I don't think it'll impact viewership all that much. I mean, in a lot of countries, nightlife has been halted so that gives people more time to watch TV. Maybe viewership will go up instead of down. But to me the biggest mystery is still how they'll handle the missing episodes. Some shows are shortening their seasons but that means unfinished storylines. I'm assuming the scripts they had for the remainder of the season will be reworked into the next season. As for the shows that are on hold at the moment. I think most of them are waiting to see just how long they'll have to stop production. I think most of them are counting on two weeks but I think it'll end up being longer. Which means that either they'll also have to shorten their season, or the episodes will be shot much later and then it's up to the network to decide when to air them. I can't see them completely rework their schedules for this. But not airing them is also not an option. Either way, this is gonna be a mess.

Laura: I think it's debatable. On one hand with large scale quarantine, there might be some people who will start watching shows that they have yet to try or have been behind on and where I think streaming services most of all will make out. However, for shows on regular networks and cable that are either filming while still being in the middle of their seasons or were about to launch their next season, I think we could see viewership decline, because there will be only a handful of new things and a lot of repeats. In addition in my country, half of us live "paycheck to paycheck" and some will be cutting back on cable/streaming and may not be thinking about Tv much at all, as we still don't know if people can pay their bills, as we don't guarantee paid leave!

Zoé: I think it won't affect shows like Riverdale, which will be successful no matter what. Netflix shows won't take much a hit either, as they don't rely on a consistent weekly schedule. Smaller shows will feel more of an effect, whether positive or negative. I know the main joke in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. community is that it might become prime time television, because it'll be the only show on the air!

Many movies, such as Mulan, Furious 9, and A Quiet Place Part II (the last of which was supposed to come out this week) are pushing their release dates back due to the virus. How do you think this will impact box office numbers?

Dahne: Movies will be dead for the near future. The box office is going to take a big hit until people feel like they won't get sick in public spaces or sheer boredom leads them to take a chance. Afterwards though, things should stabilize quickly.

Alejandra: The box office will take a big hit for sure, numbers were dropping every year but now with many countries on lockdown and people not frequenting public places with a lot of people it will make the numbers drop even more. I feel it was a smart move to push back these dates for big-budget movies like Furious 9 or Mulan, and I feel many other movie studios will follow suit to minimize losses.

Giulia: I don't think it will impact box office numbers per se. Once the situation will be under control, movies will have a new life and moviegoers won't hesitate a second to go out and enjoy their favorite films coming out. I'm probably speaking from experience, given that having my country on lockdown, movie theaters are closed and one of the things I miss the most is going to the cinema. It will have an impact on the industry, for sure; the movies were ready, so were the press tours, premieres, all the marketing.

Naomi: Movie theaters are tight crowded spaces. I think box office numbers will take a gut punch because of this. Pushing back release dates until things are under control is probably a smart move.

Katherine: What I think we may end up seeing, depending on eventual release dates, is what could be a glut of summer movies. Since the summer box office draw can be a huge moneymaker for the studios, they may also have to make some serious choices about where their marketing money will end up going. Also, since current release dates are unsure, you have to say goodbye to the magazine issues devoted entirely to what will be coming out this summer.

Lisa: This will have a HUGE impact on box office that may see a huge ripple effect. Indie theaters are likely going to go under. The box office is already way down. If people get out of the habit of going to the movies that could have long-reaching effects. If studios aren't bringing in revenue that could impact on movies scheduled to go into production.

Sarah: As someone who works in a cinema, the box office is not going to be in good shape for a long time after COVID-19. There has already been a lull before all the movies got postponed, people who were waiting to see things like Mulan and Bond aren't going into cinemas anytime soon. Today a lot of us were talking about the idea that cinemas will shut if the spread gets worse.

Jamie: Well, here in my country movie theatres are closed. I imagine that once they reopen, the big movie fans will be dying to go. But a lot of people might still be scared. So I think that the movies releasing in at least the next two months will be making less than they would have without this crisis.

Laura: A lot of theaters are shutting down so in the immediate sense, like every other kind of business, this quarter will not be good and contribute to devastating the economy. I think it's too early to say yet, if and when things return more to normal, if people will still be able to go out and see as many movies as they might of, prior to this, again due to financial restraints and/or devastating losses of loved ones. However, I do think the bigger blockbuster tent movies will still make a lot of money.

Zoé: I would be surprised if no one decided to use this opportunity to bring the rise of On-Demand movies. Having movies be released On-Demand immediately has been a discussion for years. I'm quite shocked that Disney didn't decide to release Mulan on Disney+. They've been looking for a boost on their new platform for a while now. Many online have expressed that they would be willing to pay more to watch new movies from home during this time.

I think that this will be devastating for cinemas across the world.

There allegedly were some concerns with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier script, as there are murmurs that it involves a pandemic of some sort. Supposedly, there are some rewrites currently happening. Do you think the writers should be avoiding these subjects, or is all fair in creative writing?

Dahne: Some shows and movies just have bad timing. No one needs to avoid writing about certain subjects because of real-world events but it does seem like postponing when some things air makes sense. Given that the film won't come out until well after the virus runs its course, I'm not sure why they would change it.

Alejandra: It's all in creative writing. I mean it's unfortunate timing, but it's just a matter of time before people begin coming up with scripts about pandemics and such in the nearby future as a result of this. Maybe if they want to be a bit sensitive with regards to the situation they could delay the release date, but I don't think they should limit or rewrite anything because of this.

Giulia: I agree, it's just a matter of poor timing. Creators shouldn't shy away from topics, and sometimes the best art has come out from situations of despair and trouble. It makes sense it might be avoided for the time being, but it all comes down to the story. They will maybe bring it back at a later time.

Naomi: They should go with that storyline with full force and the blessing of the producers. I think people like to see real-life tackled on the screen. I know I do. Marvel has done a good job of dealing with subject matter like this before- I trust them. Let's hope the powers that be do too.

Katherine: While I do think all is fair in creative writing, there is so much panic now I think we might see stories about problems like potential pandemics shelved for now and moved into a storyline when things are better medically. I am honestly not sure how films will be treated, both because of the current climate and also because of how the studios are working to figure out how to schedule/what to postpone/etc, things may be over before the have to worry.

Lisa: I think that Marvel/Disney will play it safe and ditch a pandemic storyline - which is stupid. They will want to avoid "triggering" people or seeming to profit from this horrible catastrophe - which I get and is a laudable reason to ditch the storyline. However, I also think that using the storyline to educate people is also a laudable reason to keep it. Could they focus on how it gets out of control and how it might have been better handled? I'm thinking about all the storylines on shows like The West Wing and Madam Secretary that took real-world political events and shone a light on them.

Sarah: I feel that if what's been written ends up being related to real-time problems then it all depends on how the writing has handled it. If it comes across insensitive or cruel then maybe a rewrite should be done. Other than that, if the script is well done and professional then move forward with production.

Jamie: No, I think they should keep it as it is. It's one thing to not air an episode about bombs right after a terrorist attack. But this virus has already been going on for months and will last months more. The show is not set to premiere until the summer and now it may even be later due to the production being halted. What are we going to do? Avoid anything related to a pandemic for the next year?

Laura: Not necessarily. For one thing, we all have the choice to not watch something, if we think it's insensitive or doesn't believe in its themes, and I think curbing creative freedom is a slippery slope to taking away our rights to speak, express, and think for ourselves. If this was something that was being added onto the series, because of the Pandemic, then I would say that is probably a bad idea, because it comes off like Capitalism in it's finest, but if it was already apart of the story, aiding it in some way, and it happens to coincide with current events, then more power to it. Then it's actually a relatable series that might have some important things to say about the times we live in.

Zoé: I think it's definitely a grey area and definitely depends on timing. A few years ago, Doctor Who aired an episode where a plane was blown up just a few days after a plane blew up in reality. It was impossible for the writers to know at the time of writing/filming, but it still caused a major uproar. I think people can be sensitive to those sorts of things and it's not a terrible idea to tread carefully, but it shouldn't have to be entirely avoided, especially if it's already been filmed/written.

How do you think COVID-19 will continue to affect the entertainment community?

Dahne: In the end, COVID-19 falls under "this too shall pass." It will run its course and things will get back to normal, both in the entertainment community and in real life.

Alejandra: The entertainment industry will be severely affected this year. COVID-19 has affected so many productions already since many studios are pausing them. But once this passes after this year, it will be a matter of if studios can bounce back next year what will determine if there are some shutdowns or something like that.

Giulia: "Everything's going to be okay" is the motto trending in my country (Italy) at the moment. And I agree, it will pass, the storm will pass, but there will be consequences, there's no denying that. The virus will be less effective, so people will have less restrictions when it comes to work and gatherings, so I think the entertainment industry will have to pay the price of what's happening right now, but it will bounce back and return to normal. It will take time, but it will go back to the way it was.

Naomi: Many parts of the entertainment industry will suffer like many other industries.

Movie theaters, theme parks with studio tours, and production will be hurt because of the need to keep people safe. Winners might be streaming platforms. People stuck at home with nothing to do will watch until they can't watch anymore. More people may subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Disney, and Prime because they are going to be at home anywhere from two weeks to a month at a time.

Katherine: I'm waiting to see what happens with Comic-Con. Postpone? Cancel? July isn't that far away, and since we have no idea about where the country will be Corona-Wise, I really want to see how they handle it.

Lisa: I think that COVID-19 is going to affect every industry for some time and especially the entertainment industry. Major, lead actors will be fine. They'll still be in demand and have the means to weather the storm. More at-risk groups are going to find themselves in financial straights and may have to leave the industry to find work elsewhere. I'm thinking of crews here primarily. That could hurt production when it does start up again. Because studios will need big gains to make up for this, they are going to be even more conservative in what they greenlight. There will be no wiggle room for taking a chance on a project. So many people, especially in the US, are taking a huge financial hit from not being able to work - or are seeing their life savings disappear in the market crash, that people are not going to have the same financial clout to go to the movies or to buy multiple streaming services and cable. We all love our shows and fandoms - but at the end of the day, it's a luxury.

Sarah: Yes, the virus will cause problems to the entertainment industry for quite a while, even after its inevitable eradication. The entire world is going to be feeling the ramifications that COVID-19, had caused on public services and industries.

Jamie: I think it'll bounce back. I'm assuming the writer's strike is off? Otherwise, things might get a lot worse. But as things are now, it'll be fine. We might still see some consequences next season. Pilot season will sort of fall apart, we might not see that many new shows next year. It's a shame for all the people who have been working on those potential new shows.

Laura: I think it's going to devastate it for at least a year, because so many countries did not just get on the virus and demand a national quarantine with guaranteed sick pay/emergency pay and/or utilities being kept on. The reality is, it may be too late to really effectively slow down the virus and this slower way of closing some business here and then later, there, doesn't necessarily cut it down, because it may have rapidly spread already. It only allows for Hospitals to be able to better handle the critically sick and start getting real data by finally testing, while flattening the curve somewhat. There are going to be people like crew members, make-up artists, writers, props, set design, editors, etc ---people who don't get paid enough and may not be compensated, that are going to be out of work for who knows how long and may not be able to recover, depending on how we go about quarantining and/or the true nature of the virus is. We also were on the verge of Pilot season. Can any shows really be ready for fall with the exceptions of ones that were done filming? These people may not be able to return to their jobs or find work, if some of these shows are canceled or take six months to a year to move forward.

Zoé: I'm seeing the results of COVID-19 absolutely decimate the theatre community, especially the non-profits. Broadway has been completely shut down! As someone who works in theatre and got my theatre shut down, I'm seeing my coworkers utterly distressed about rent for themselves and their non-profit theatres. There's a good chance that a lot of groups will go under during this time. The big groups, big companies, etc. will get back on their feet eventually.

That wraps up another round table! Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below. See you next week!


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