Paulie’s Perspective: Updates On Covid-19’s Effect On Hollywood

Hey kids – I know this coronavirus has us all staying inside so since it is affecting our lives so drastically, let me give you some updates on how it’s affecting Hollywood. 

America’s unemployment rate has hit 13% as of 4-11-20. Within the last four weeks of 4-11-20, 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. Now if you are thinking that is a lot, well it is. However, during The Great Depression, we had a rate of 24.9%, at its peak. Most of the Depression Era, from 1931-1940, it hung around 14% or so. So we are doing pretty bad – in general, but not as horrible as the Great Depression’s peak. Of course you’d never know this watching Trump’s press conference because reporters are busy asking about Tiger King episodes. Funny, isn’t it. 

I bring this up not to start political fights or rallies but to get to what Disney is about to do. Disney, as you may know, makes up a whopping 40% of America’s box office economy. That is almost half, and that is a huge percentage of a huge industry. Last year alone, America’s movies made over $11.32 billion dollars. Almost half of that, was because of Disney. So yea, they have become extremely important to Hollywood’s bottom line. 

Anyway, back to what Disney is about to do – since all of their theme parks are closed and productions have stopped on their tv shows and movies – Disney announced it was going to begin “furloughs” for workers who are no longer “necessary” at this time. I can imagine they have many Darth Vader actors and catering companies just standing around twiddling their thumbs, well now they will be furloughed. I do not know how many at this time of writing this, but they did announce marketing jobs, theme park jobs and distribution departments will be the hardest hit. 

Disney is home to Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Disney’s own marketing and distribution, so like I said, they have a lot of people. They are being nice about it – as I see it, to these people. Let me tell you what they are offering. First, if you have paid time off coming, like a vacation, please use it now. Nothing says “thank you for working here” then a paid vacation during quarantine. Next, if you do not have any vacation time, Disney will continue to pay you $600 a week during these hard times, and you will be eligible for unemployment benefits on top of that. So, really, it’s not horrible. We all know unemployment does not cover much, but the extra weekly sum of $600 will soften the blow. After all Disney is a huge huge huge company and not providing people with anything would truly be a travesty. 

As you may have read, on top of all this generosity, Disney executives will have their salaries re-arranged. VP’s will be cut by 20%, Senior VP’s by 25% and Executive VP’s, their pay will be cut by 30%. Again, a very nice gesture by people probably making millions of dollars and currently have more money than they can possibly spend in their lifetime. Still, in this day of immense greed, it is a good thing they are doing and I wish more big companies that are NOT in entertainment would follow suit. 

Other big companies in entertainment that are implementing furloughs or are just outright suspending people are CAA, Paradigm, UTA, AMC Theaters (which actually just might declare bankruptcy) and the big payroll company, Cast & Crew, which writes the checks for just about everyone in entertainment. 

THE GOOD SIDE

They say necessity is the mother of invention – well maybe there is one good thing to come out of all this. As you may or may not have noticed, stars of shows, particularly The Food Network, have begun filming themselves, at home. I know there is a viral video of Ina Garten, “The Barefoot Contessa” making a huge martini in a huge martini glass. 

The Food Network and some other channels are arming their big name talents with the equipment needed to film in their very own homes. No crew, no writers, no problem. In fact, Food Network’s self filmed experiments have actually garnered their highest ratings in over 8 years. I just watched Quarantine Kitchen on YouTube, with Alton Brown and his wife, at home, trying to find food to make breakfast with. It was rather enjoyable. You get to see their real houses, which most times are just amazing, and you get to see how your favorite personalities or tv stars actually live. What their real kitchen is like, their pets, their little knick knacks that they have around the house. 

Now mind you, this is not MTV Cribs – this is reality. And you if you have an attachment to a personality, it is a fun thing to do rather than stream Ozark again. 

So keep on the lookout whomever your favorite TV personality is – they may just start a little show or two themselves that you might find delightful, to keep your minds off of the 13% unemployment rate and the thousands of deaths. Who knows.

Author: Paul Bernardo

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