The entertainment industry’s comeback is getting hit by Omicron.
Institutions that put on awards ceremonies, concerts, film festivals and high-profile schmooze events are considering postponement, cancellation or going virtual as the Covid-19 variant sweeps through the U.S.
Organizers of the Grammy Awards are considering postponing this year’s event in Los Angeles, according to a person familiar with the matter, due to the spread of the Omicron variant. The Recording Academy, which runs the music industry’s annual awards, hadn’t yet reached a decision Monday morning, according to this person.
The Grammys, slated for Jan. 31, were also postponed last year due to Covid-19, from the end of January to mid-March. The show was also moved from its traditional venue at the Staples Center—since renamed Crypto.com Arena—to the Los Angeles Convention Center to allow for the slimmed-down guest list to space out. The Recording Academy is a nonprofit and relies on people paying top-dollar for tickets to the show as a significant source of income.
Two other big-ticket events attached to the Grammys—the MusiCares gala and the Clive Davis/Recording Academy’s Pre-Grammy Gala—would likely also move if the awards show is postponed.
Kicking off the year with a postponement of “music’s biggest night” would mark the latest setback for a live entertainment industry still reeling from the devastation of worker shortages, outbreaks canceling shows already complicated by vaccine and testing mandates, and empty seats from no-shows. While concert executives for much of last year pointed to the success of outdoor festivals and fans’ eagerness to snap up tickets for future events, the quick spread of Omicron casts a potential shadow over their long-held sentiment that 2022 will be the biggest year ever for live events and a return to normalcy for the entertainment industry at large.
Several shows around the holidays were put off as cases increased, including the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes and LCD Soundsystem’s Brooklyn residency. January otherwise tends to be a quieter month for regular concert touring. On Broadway, numerous shows have canceled performances at the last minute or shut down completely as cast members test positive and audiences stay away.
Some executives say they are optimistic that Omicron, whose symptoms appear to be relatively mild, will burn out quickly while advancing herd immunity, helping pave the way for a return to more normalcy. But some major acts that were contemplating tour dates for this year are now looking to 2023, according to one executive.
Meanwhile, Hollywood executives and stars eager to resume pre-pandemic operations have had plans disrupted by the spread of Omicron, which came just as the holiday moviegoing season was under way and the spring awards season is set to begin.
Movie theaters in Ontario, Canada, are closing on Wednesday for an unspecified amount of time after new government restrictions were announced due to the rise of Covid-19 infections. Canadian grosses tend to comprise a fraction of North American revenue for Hollywood studios, but the closures nonetheless come as companies are hoping that the robust interest in hits like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” translates into more regular moviegoing than in the past year.
A spokeswoman for Cineplex Inc., Canada’s dominant exhibitor, said the decision would close 67 of the chain’s locations in the area. They will “reopen as soon as we are allowed,” she added. The decision follows previous closures in other international markets, including Denmark.
Though Omicron has yet to disrupt major exhibitors in the U.S., some movie theaters have already reduced the number of showtimes due to an industrywide labor shortage, as well as depressed interest in moviegoing since auditoriums reopened.
Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which holds the Oscars, announced that its annual Governors Awards gala—an evening of feting industry luminaries with honorary awards—would be postponed from Jan. 15 to an unspecified date. The evening is scheduled to honor Samuel L. Jackson, Danny Glover, Elaine May and Liv Ullmann.
In addition to bestowing Hollywood’s elder statesmen with statues, the Governors Awards also functions as a critical stop on the awards-season circuit, where would-be nominees can schmooze in a packed ballroom of voters ahead of the Oscar ceremony scheduled for March 27.
Another spot on the awards-circuit itinerary, the film awards given by the Palm Springs International Film Society, has also been canceled due to Omicron. The awards were scheduled to take place on Jan. 6.
“We are taking this action due to the recent spike in Covid cases and out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of the honorees, patrons and staff,” the organization said. An accompanying screening series associated with the event will go on, but will require proof of vaccination and a mask, the organization added.
The virus is also forcing a change of plans at film festivals, which spent much of the past year improvising digital screenings to avoid crowded auditoriums.
One of the biggest such gatherings, the Sundance Film Festival, will convene in Park City, Utah, starting on Jan. 20. The annual celebration of independent film is currently planning a hybrid model of in-person events and at-home screenings, and is requiring all those attending live to be vaccinated with a booster. Theaters will be at reduced capacity, with no eating or drinking allowed.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8