Sometimes, you need more than the Force. Sometimes, you simply need enforcement. At least of common-sense protocols, such as wearing masks during a still unyielding plague.
This became an issue during the recent Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, the largest Star Wars fan gathering extant. However, the arc for many attending seems to have gone from costuming to coughing, in short order. Disney (and Universal) parks fan site Inside the Magic gathered up tweets and dispatches made during, and in the immediate wake of, the well-populated event, and reported that “everyone was supposed to be masked inside and out but in environments like the main hall/panels/queues there was probably only [under] 50 percent rate of masking.”
One celebrant, lulled there by a stated policy of vax-proof to get in, and full masking once you were, wondered if Disney would “refund a ticket since they aren’t adhering to their very clear language on the website about masks. I wouldn’t have bought tickets this year if they weren’t required, folks,” while “many Star Wars Celebration attendees reported positive cases on social media after the convention.” Yet another Twitter user wrote, “My husband is working Star Wars Celebration and the crew is dropping like flies from Covid.”
We mention all this because another “celebration” is coming a couple of days after this column goes live — namely, the celebration of cameras, lights, scrims, and jibs that is the Cine Gear Expo. The show is planning to ask for vax proof upon entry, but masks, unfortunately, are only “encouraged.”
The last Cine Gear, where masks were actually required, was held last fall, right before the winter spike of the previous variant. That was a depopulated show at the LA Convention Center, with lighter attendance and many large vendors canceling at the last moment.
This year’s event looks to be larger, both in attendance and booth numbers, as the show returns to its more traditional June timeframe (though not its previous mostly-outdoors-locale at Paramount, which in retrospect — despite the other issues there — seems to have offered unrealized benefits when contrasted with enclosed spaces).
We’ll be venturing into those particular waters ourselves — masked up, of course — and will report back next week on how Cine Gear went.
This past April, NAB, the year’s first big production gear show (at least stateside), also returned to its live-and-in-person form in Las Vegas, where tourists embrace the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry — for tomorrow we may die.”
And yet, we received scant reports of viral outbreaks in its wake, which could be attributed to both reduced attendance, and perhaps timing between variants. In fact, the reports we received were mostly positive:
Chrosziel CEO Timm Stemann called NAB “a great show for us and we valued very much the direct contact.” Addressing the unspoken aspects of this — to what degree the “trade show” model remains viable — he noted that Chroszeil believes such gatherings will “continue to be an important marketing action point.” “However, we try to keep the costs down as much as possible,” he added.
Of course, this means that ultimately — after whatever shakeout is coming — some shows will be more viable than others.
UK-based industry analyst Paolo Pescatore took to LinkedIn to say that “people were over the moon to see each other (judging by all LinkedIn posts with selfies and groupies),” and also observed that “stands seemed smaller, which is not a bad thing in terms of costs and concerns around attendance. Expect this to be the case moving forward.”
Concurrently, with the smaller stands, he also said it was “noticeable how many companies decided not to exhibit.” Messaging us directly, he later said that some of those companies included “Avid, Dolby, Harmonic, Deltatre, and Google.”
Conversely, Paull Babb, the head of worldwide marketing for imaging software company Maxon, said “the return to NAB was nothing short of a triumph for the whole industry — it underscored what we’ve all known since the last show in 2019: there’s no substitute for in-person connection and community engagement. Even though overall attendance was down, the Maxon booth saw great traffic, and” — echoing Pescatore — “the excitement from attendees was palpable. From a business perspective, we found it to be a very successful show. It exceeded expectations. Assuming conditions continue to improve, I would expect to see a similar, if not better, turnout at next year’s show.”
But that is the always-fraught caveat now: “assuming conditions continue to improve.” As we write, news breaks that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tested positive for Covid and is experiencing mild symptoms, making him one of at least 15 people to test positive in the wake of last week’s Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.
He’s also at least the fifth cabinet secretary to test positive, recently.
Washington and Hollywood have long shared a kind of secretly covetous enmeshment, each trying to compensate for the imagined glitz, or power, presumed to exist on the opposite coast. Hopefully, the rush to feign normalcy in clearly non-normal times won’t be a mutually shared extravagance.
And we still haven’t touched on all the other “conditions” the world is going through at the moment.
Meanwhile, though, the show does go on. And we’ll report on the yonder side of it, in our next installment.
Mark London Williams is a BTL alum who currently covers Hollywood, its contents and discontents, in his recurring “Across the Pond” dispatch for British Cinematographer magazine, contributes to other showbiz and production-minded sites, and musters out the occasional zombie, pandemic-themed, or demon-tinged book and script, causing an increased blurring in terms of what still feels like “fiction.”
Mark London Williams’ Union Roundup column will appear every Tuesday. You can reach him to give him tips and feedback at [email protected]. He can also be found on Twitter @TricksterInk.