Odeon Theater

Cinemas Stagger Reopening of Chains As Major Film Dates Are Pushed Back

The UK’s largest cinema operator, Odeon, has been reported to have altered its reopening schedule as the return to normality continues to be hindered by both coronavirus spikes and the delaying of major film releases.

As reported by entertainment news website Deadline, Odeon began its reopenings on July 4th, when 10 sites were brought back to life. A further plan was in place to open another 88 venues by the end of the month, but it now seems that this decision has been reversed, with only around 10 expected to open instead.

Given the forced nature of the closures, you would be forgiven for thinking that all cinema venues would be eager to open at the first available opportunity, but there is a very good reason why Odeon hasn’t rushed to reopen all of its sites, just as Cineworld hasn’t either. A cinema is part of a much bigger wheel and without the big crowd pulling movies to put on show, there is little incentive to attract those all important audiences in.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented a difficult situation for the big film houses, as none of them want to risk having a big budget movie flop. Whilst in the current circumstances, it is understandable that a film may not do as well as it may have done in pre-COVID times, that provides little comfort to the investors and to the overall movie figures, which will be ingrained in entertainment history for ever more.

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Two big movies which have reportedly pushed back their launch dates to mid August are Warner Bros’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan, but even these dates are speculative, as further spikes in cases in the US could cause further delays and it is standard practice for the US movie market to lead with first releases.

Given that figures show less than 1 in 10 cinema venues in the UK opened since July 4th, it is no surprise that sales equated to little over $150k. This is to be expected though, as both staff and customers are adapting to the new ‘normal’ when it comes to the cinematic experience.

Strict health and safety policies are in place, alongside measures to reduce the numbers of visitors and their use of key facilities whilst inside the venue. In addition, there is obviously the risk that should a staff member test positive for the virus, the entire venue would need to be closed for a deep clean and all patrons who have visited in recent days would need to be contacted, with advice to self isolate. Such uncertainty does not provide encouragement to those who are desperately wanting to return to cinema but are naturally worried about the risks.

By far the biggest blow for the cinema industry would be a second wave, or a scattering of continued localized spikes which would put a stop to returning to any kind of normality for more than a few short weeks at a time. All venues rely on the attraction of the big name movies, of which there are only a handful released each year. The launch dates are timed with precision, to capitalize on holidays, anniversaries, weather and more. It is not always that easy to reschedule to a time which works as well, and so films may find they have to take the hit and make do with lower box office figures. What other option do they have?

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Well, should we face another national lockdown, they could take the road that Trolls World Tour did by releasing their latest addition online. This move at the time drew much criticism from cinemas, who were relying on the movie to be one of their big crowd pleasers. The success of the Trolls World Tour release highlighted whether this route could become a viable distribution strategy, effectively bypassing the cinemas entirely. Such a transition could be catastrophic to the cinema sector, but many feel that it is unlikely to pose a significant risk, at least for the foreseeable future.

There is much to be said for the whole cinema experience, for a start it simply cannot be created in your own living room. Whether it is a family trip out, a romantic date night, or a time for friends to catch up and spend time together, it is a much of a social activity as it is the consumption of a particular movie. The move to stagger cinema reopenings may seem to stem from trouble, but in reality, it is a slow and steady return which will help to keep costs, staffing and the safety of customers in check, whilst weighing up the commercial benefits of opening its doors at a particular point in time. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone, and most cinema venues would agree that their ultimate aim is to return to full capacity as it once was. But in the face of a global health crisis returning to normal is simply not possible. It would seem that expecting the unexpected must now form part of any recovery strategy, including that of cinema venues.


Thinking of Becoming An Instagram Influencer?

Given that many people have had a fair amount of time on their hands, it is no surprise that there has been a surge in new Instagram profiles from those looking to cash in on the exclusive world of the Instagram influencer. But is it really that easy to break into or is it just a waste of time and energy?

In a world of instant gratification, there isn’t much that can beat Instagram. Posting pictures which gain the appreciation and love of strangers from across the world seems to be the name of the game, and the more followers you have, the more ‘influential’ you can claim that you are.

On a whim, I decided to set up a quirky little clothing brand over lockdown, mainly to give me something to do outside of work (otherwise with zero office structure thanks to coronavirus lockdown, I’d just end up working 24/7 and never stopping). Although my aim wasnt to become an influencer myself, this activity did open my eyes to how this crazy little world works.

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To begin with, you need to invest time in building a following. And I mean REALLY invest. I’m talking several hours a day of liking, commenting and permeating conversations, ‘cliques’ and existing groups within the ‘Instabubble’, those who are likely to be interested in similar things as you. This is a slow burn activity and you’ll build following every day, but it won’t be huge. You can of course ‘fast track’ this by joining ‘follow loops’ which exist to make everybody participating follow everybody participating…trouble is this isn’t targeted at all, so it’s really just getting followers for the sake of it. If your intention is to look ‘influential’, then these sort of groups can help you to quickly hit the 1k, 3k and 5K barriers, after which you appear to be a little more of a serious influencer. But it is also worth remembering that these aren’t people who are following you out of pure interest, so engagement is likely to be far lower than if you spent time building a smaller, but much more relevant audience.

Brands are also aware of this practice, so simply having 10K followers on your feed isn’t enough to guarantee they’ll part with valuable cash or free products to work with you. They’ll be looking at your engagement rate and can trawl through your followers to see the types of people that are in your circle. In short, the benefit of loops is superficial and they can often be far more effort to maintain and often for little tangible gain.

On this note, as a new brand, I’ve had dozens of ‘influencers’ approach me for collabs, which essentially means me sending them free stuff in return for a promo to their followers. Whilst this sounds like the perfect opportunity, it is again worth remembering that all influencers are not equal, even if their numbers are. To be a strong and credible influencer that brands really want to work with, you need to make sure you are not only producing good and relevant content, but you are following, interacting and engaging with the right types of people and they are in turn responding to and engaging with you. Brands are not paying for your platform, they are paying for your influence, and without that, the investment is fairly pointless.

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There is growing acceptance that ‘micro-influencers’ tend to be much more valuable to brands than larger celebrity influencers. The general consensus is that engagement is much lower per 1,000 followers of a celebrity with millions of followers than one with 10K. Larger celebrities also tend to be tied up in sponsorships and handled by agents, which makes the whole process of working with brands a little more long winded. Working with a large influencer is great for visibility, but usually, if brands are looking for direct action to be taken, such as product purchases, the micro-influencers are the ones they’ll be looking at. My work in agencies has demonstrated this, with the brands we represented looking to target influencers within the 10-2oK bracket. These types of follower numbers may still seem an impossible achievement for little old you, but with dedication and continued perseverance, they are entirely attainable if you stick to a clear and defined strategy for growing your profile with the right types of followers.

Becoming an influencer is not something you are likely to achieve overnight, although it does happen! However, let’s be a little more realistic for the purpose of this article. By putting the plans in place now and executing them consistently, you can start building the blocks for future success. Many influencers in the 10-20K category have been growing their followings for several years, so if done right, it could certainly turn into a lucrative opportunity for you in the future.

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Pubs in The UK Reopen For First Time Since Lockdown

Pubs in the UK have reopened for the first time since lockdown was announced in March, with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging people to ‘act sensibly’ when visiting them.

Pubs in England were permitted to reopen on the Saturday the 4th July, in a move which has attracted some skepticism regarding safe social distancing. There have been concerns raised that one of the key pillars of the UK government’s coronavirus communications campaign is to ‘Stay Alert’, something which will undoubtedly be impaired once a few drinks have been consumed. There is the very real worry that whilst people will have good intentions for adhering to social distancing, once the alcohol is flowing and social aspects of sitting in the pub and drinking with friends are rekindled, it will prove hard to avoid close contact.

These worries are justified in part, particularly when you consider some of the pictures that emerge of ‘Boozy Brits’ on nights out, both at home and abroad. But it is important to acknowledge that the pub environment is going to be very different to what it was pre-lockdown. Many are going to be operating ‘by appointment only’ so that they can stagger the amount of people in the venue at any time. There is also likely to be greater emphasis on keeping people socially distanced and there certainly won’t be the same warm and welcoming atmosphere that the pubs are best known for; it will be much more clinical. News reports have also indicated that police officers will be out and about ensuring that social distancing measures are adhered to and people are behaving appropriately. All of these aspects combined means that the experience will be markedly different to what people are used to, and may deter people from venturing out to their local at all.

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That said, pub managers and owners are keen to welcome customers back with open arms (no touching though!). Some pubs have already been able to open for takeaway services only and those with beer gardens or are close to greens have benefited from allowing customers to enjoy their drinks in the outdoors. It has been suggested that those pubs in more rural areas are likely to fare better than those in close city locations, where it is much easier for people to maintain their distance and feel safe and relaxed within their local pub.

As it has now been over 3 months since the pubs shut their doors, there is a concern that a growing number of people may simply no longer be inclined to visit the pub as frequently, having had the opportunity to get themselves ‘out of the habit’ so to speak. The quick drink in the pub after work may no longer apply to those who remain on furlough, are self-employed and not currently in work, or have been made redundant. With the kids off school too, many families may now be spending more time together at home or on family days out, leaving little time or space for a ‘quick drink’ down the pub with mates. Others may have also used the time to go on a health kick and have made the conscious decision to reduce their alcohol intake. Understandably, pub managers are conscious that they may not gain the level of custom needed to keep their business viable and there are very real risks that smaller chains and indie pubs could face imminent closure if they can’t find a way to make the numbers work.

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Bigger chains aren’t immune from these effects either and we are yet to see whether there will be any long term impact on the Wetherspoons chain, following its refusal to pay staff at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the introduction of the furlough scheme, Wetherspoons was reported to be refusing to pay its part time staff for the remainder of the month, leaving many lower wage earners in immediate financial difficulty. The reluctance of the chain to support its workers during a national crisis was met with much disdain, along with calls for mass boycotts from the public once they were allowed to reopen. Such actions are likely to remain unforgotten and Wetherspoons could soon find that it is suffering for the lack of empathy shown by the company’s bosses. Only time will tell, and with emotions still running high, it really could go either way for them.

Certainly the reopening of pubs is positive; it will help allow workers to return to employment and start earning a wage again, and they will also provide much needed social interaction for those who may have been struggling with loneliness and isolation. Rather than it being the greenlight for mass drinking sessions and an increased risk to public health, it is hoped that by behaving responsibly, pubs can help to provide a safe haven and welcome respite from the craziness that is going on in the world around us.

Hulu with Popcorn

The Handmaids Tale Season 4 Will Return in 2021

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985. Set in a future totalitarian state, Gilead, once the United States of America, the novel explores the role of women in a dystopian, patriarchal world where their rights have been completely stripped away from them. The book follows Offred’s tale, a woman in servitude to a high-ranking family, as a Handmaid. She is bound to serve her imprisoners by many means, but one in particular, conceive a child through ceremonial rape. In 2017, Hulu aired the first season of The Handmaids Tale series to critical acclaim, quickly being renewed for further series. It won eight Primetime Emmy Awards from thirteen nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Hulu have now announced that Season 4 will arrive in 2021 and have released a teaser trailer.

The Handmaids Tale was renewed for Season 4 before Season 3 had finished airing but no dates were given as to when it would be released. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, much of the film industry has been placed on pause and the world of Gilead has not been immune to that. Although, the show was renewed in 2019 and we have received yearly instalments since 2017, the pandemic has pushed the fourth season to 2021. One predominant storyline in Season Three revolved around June’s mission to liberate the children of Gilead to Canada. On 24th June Hulu released the Season 4 trailer, which opens on an injured June (Offred) being carried away by other Handmaids. Elizabeth Moss’s voiceover (who portrays June), states ‘I can’t rest, my daughter deserves better, we all deserve better.’ The trailer fans out into an explosive montage of clips, depicting June, the Handmaids and other members of the resistance in the next stage of rebellion against Gilead.

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Like Season 1, but unlike the second and third installments, Season 4 will only contain ten episodes. Speaking to IndieWire, showrunner Bruce Miller said: “Some storylines just seem to shake out as a 10-episode story, in my eyes.” IndieWire later adding ‘According to Miller, a 10-episode season allows the show the luxury to spend several episodes exploring a small piece of the story because the need for multiple story arcs throughout the season has been eliminated.’

Miller also said that Canada (separate from Gilead and not in line with its practices), will play a larger role in the coming season. Stating to TV Guide “The people in Toronto are as much a part of the story as the people in Gilead, All the people in Toronto are showing us what June has waiting for her if she does ever get out. You’re kind of telling those stories of possible routes for June, but it’s not all going to be sunshine and lollipops.”

Season 1 of The Handmaids Tale followed, rather accurately, the events in Margaret Atwood’s original novel, taking June’s storyline, (aka. Offred named after her owner ‘Of Fred) right up to her place at the end of the novel. The following seasons, expanded the world of Gilead and June’s story further, with Margaret Atwood serving as a producer on the show.

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Although, set in a fictional world, the beauty of dystopia and Margaret Atwood’s dystopia at that, is that it takes concepts and inspiration from the history and by parallel shines a light on the current world that we are living in. Atwood said to The Guardian ‘“When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched. However, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that humans had not already done somewhere at some time.” Fertility in women and a woman’s role in the world has long been dictated in biblical tales. The persecution of women in Gilead alludes strongly to the Salem witch trials, and stealing children from their mothers can be seen throughout history, until the rise of women’s rights, a mother typically had no rights to her children. Further, in a horrific example, Stylist outlined: ‘In Australia as recently as the Seventies, indigenous children were lawfully stolen from their homes and placed in religious institutions or fostered out to white families.’

The show does not shy away from these issues, shining a light on current injustices facing women throughout the world today. From genital mutilation, LGBTQ rights, female censorship, mother shaming, breast-feeding, immigration, victim shaming and so forth. Many have seen stark comparisons with the Handmaid’s Tale narrative and Trumps presidency, protesters even donning the red capes of the Handmaids. The Guardian wrote: ‘“You are seeing a bubbling up of it now,” [Atwood] said, referring in particular to moves under President Donald Trump to restrict the right to abortion. Trump said last year women should face punishment if they receive abortions, a comment he later retracted.”

Sure to be in line with the times, Season 4 is set to be another phenomenal installment of The Handmaids Tale series.


MTV To Hold Socially Distanced VMAs At Barclays Center

The coronavirus pandemic has truly shut down the entertainment industry indefinitely. Television and movie studios have halted production on all projects, Broadway/major theater productions have been closed, and all major award shows cancelled; at least until now. This week BET managed to show the world that not only were award shows still possible in a virtual context, but could also be extremely successful. Now, other major shows are inspired to provide some entertainment to the nation while it endures such a difficult time. 

MTV’s annual Video Music Award show typically takes place the last week of August every year. A few weeks ago it was predicted that the VMAs would likely be either cancelled or digital, but recently, the city of New York announced that the show would be doing neither.

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Instead, the VMAs will be returning to New York City’s Barclays Center this August, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. In a news conference this week Cuomo claimed that the show would bring together music fans worldwide like it always does, and pay homage to the strength, spirit, and resilience of NYC and its residents. 

The show will also provide performances from artists in remote locations throughout all five boroughs of the city. Bruce Gillmer, the president of music, music talent, programming and events for ViacomCBS Media Networks, which produces the show, recently made a statement reacting to the news. 

“We’re elated to bring the 2020 ‘VMAs back to NYC, the cultural mecca of the world where music and entertainment are woven into the DNA.”

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Like most industries that have begun to reopen throughout the country, the VMA’s is going to have to endure some major adjustments in order to properly navigate hosting a whole award show during a global pandemic. MTV made a recent statement in which they claimed that the health and safety of all “artists, fans, industry, staff, and partners is of the utmost importance.” 

“Among the measures all parties involved have aligned to include extensive social distancing procedures, meaningful capacity limitations, the virtualization of components where possible, and limited capacity or no audience.”

MTV also claimed that the show’s producers and Barclays Center management has been closely working with state and local officials during the past few weeks and will continue to do so until the actual date of the show to ensure that all proper precautions are taken/followed. 

The VMAs will be the first event that the Barclays Center is hosting since the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit New York City. The center is ecstatic to be back in the game and has stated that they’re  “proud of the impact it will have on our Brooklyn community through the creation of local jobs,” referring to the hiring of additional employees to assist with the event, as well as local surrounding small businesses seeing an increase in foot traffic. 

MTV, Barclays, the state of New York, and all local/state officials will be working tirelessly for the next two months in anticipation of the show and ensuring it runs as smoothly and safely as possible.

London Opera Theater

Entertainment Venues in England Prepare For July 4th Opening

The UK government has announced that selected entertainment venues in England can officially reopen for business on July 4th, providing they are able to adhere to social distancing and safety measures.

There has been continued uncertainty faced by businesses in many sectors as the plans for reopening the economy continued to evolve. At every point, any relaxation in the rules was to be determined by the ‘R’ level of infection that was present within the community and indeed these measures can be tightened or completely revoked if evidence shows that cases of coronavirus are rising again. It was therefore of great relief for many businesses in the leisure and entertainment sector to hear that the government had granted the reopening of these businesses from July 4th, assuming that there were no changes to the current trajectory of the virus. This announcement was also in conjunction with the reduction of the social distancing rule from 2 metres to ‘1 metre plus’ , a critical factor which would have impeded the reopening of many venues had it remained at the previous 2 metre distancing.

From July 4th, hotels, B&Bs, hostels, caravan parks and campsites can reopen their doors, meaning that they still have time to capitalize on the summer break and start to recoup some of their income. For many Brits, their foreign holidays will have been cancelled and so they will be keen to embark on a UK ‘staycation’ at one of the many tourist locations across the country.

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In addition to these, places of worship, libraries, community centers, bingo halls, cinemas, museums, galleries, hair salons and barbers, outdoor playgrounds, outdoor gyms, arcades, social clubs, aquariums and zoos will also be permitted to open, providing they can meet the ‘Covid-secure’ guidelines. Theaters and concert halls are also permitted to reopen, however live performances are not being allowed to commence over concerns that singing could pose a risk of spreading infection.

Whilst this news has been welcomed, there were some caveats to the openings which were not expected. Venues which are not permitted to reopen on July 4th include, nightclubs, bowling alleys, spas, nail bars, massage parlours, tattoo and piercing studios, indoor fitness centers, indoor gyms, sports venues, waterparks, swimming pools and exhibition centers. This was a severe blow to many small business owners, particularly in the beauty industry, who now face continued uncertainty over when they will be able to start booking in clients again and generating income once more.

Gyms and fitness centers are likely to have been hit hard by the news too, as despite being able to take advantage of the furlough scheme for staff and various government funding initiatives, these operations have continually high overheads even when closed due to their extensive property estates, associated insurances and utility costs.

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Being given the go ahead to reopen is one thing, but the practicalities of what this will mean in terms of business recovery is quite another. Opening is reliant on ensuring that the venue, staff and visitors remain safe and protected, and ‘Covid-Secure’ guidelines must be adhered to in order for them to continue trading. The costs and implications of meeting these requirements means that for many businesses that rely on a certain capacity to make profits, such as cinemas, hotels, bars and restaurants, the return to business may not be as plain sailing as it sounds. Even when the new procedures are in place, there is no guarantee that customers will feel safe enough to return, and so meeting even required custom at a reduced capacity could be difficult to attain. And with the environment changing so drastically, will customers even like the new arrangement or will they prefer to stay away until things have completely resumed to pre-covid times? This is particularly the case for entertainment venues where the atmosphere is all part of the experience, such as in the cinema or the theater. In fact, this is a real concern for some small indie cinema owners, who have suggested that they plan to snub the reopening date in July and wait until September, when the chances of opening under more normal circumstances could be a possibility.

Having customers return is absolutely critical to this plan working and if they don’t return in the expected numbers, this could have devastating consequences all round. Naturally this will also have a knock on effect on staffing levels, meaning that workers could see their contracted hours cut for the foreseeable future. For some this could mean losing their job completely. Some businesses may find that they are simply no longer profitable with such reduced capacity and unfortunately decide to close their doors permanently. Sadly, this is likely to be the case for a significant number of businesses and we should be prepared to see some of our best loved businesses, both big and small, shut down in the coming months as the longer term impact of the coronavirus pandemic reveals itself fully.

Drive in Movie

UK Entertainment Companies Introduces Drive in Movies For The Summer

Raise your hand if going to a drive-in cinema, like the nostalgic days of 1950’s America, is on your bucket list. In the UK, this dwindling American pastime, has never really been widely available to the discontent of many. However, it seems that this could now change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as the entertainment industry looks for safe ways to gear up. As the lockdown procedures in the UK are slowly lifting, many eagerly await the gift of our entertainment industry. Theatres, cinemas and concert halls still remain empty until further notice, and large public gatherings are still not authorized in the UK. As social distancing seems to be a measure that will be in effect for a long time, Drive-in cinemas may become a popular form of entertainment for Brits during the summer.

Open Air cinema experiences have grown in popularity over the last few years in Britain. Venues showing a range of different films, to crowds of people sitting in the sunshine on picnic blankets. Several venues across the UK are making use of open air spaces, or even racing tracks, to deliver a similar experience with a socially distanced drive-in experience.

The BBC reported, that drive-ins are not entirely alien to the UK, but previously, very rare. Stating that, ‘there are still only 20 permanent drive-in cinemas dotted around. It is not the country’s changeable weather that have stopped them becoming more commonplace, but the lack of a decent profit margin, says Danny Banthorpe, director of Norwich-based Popup Pictures.’ Perhaps, this new climate could change that picture.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced drive-in cinemas in the UK could open in early June. Companies from large to small, old and new are also looking to stage drive-in events over the summer. Some companies will tour the countries, whilst others will set up at a specific location.

Some entertainment companies such as cult (yet increasingly popular) immersive cinema experience company, Secret Cinema, are offering immersive experiences at their drive in. In the UK, Secret Cinema stages annual immersive cinema experiences of popular films. A secret venue is given to the ticket holder nearer the date, who enters the world of their chosen film decked out elaborative sets and performers before watching the film. Due to the pandemic, this year’s scheduled immersive experience of Dirty Dancing has been postponed until 2021. However, they recently announced the drive-in experience, which looks to be just as good in terms of entertainment. Staged on a motor circuit, films will include: Moana, The Incredibles, Cars, Mary Poppins Returns, Zootropolis, Toy Story, The Hunger Games, Knives Out, Moulin Rouge, Star Wars, Dirty Dancing, Reservoir Dogs, Pretty Woman, Fight Club and American Psycho.

The first film to be screened will be the fitting racing movie: Rush starring Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth. According to Metro ‘The audience will be introduced to characters Frankie and Johnny Starlight online before the experience, where they will provide tips on costume inspiration and car makeovers.’ Performers will also be involved in the screening and ‘The screenings will also feature a 30-minute performance ahead of the movie, where Frankie and Johnny will broadcast live to the cars via portable JBL speakers.’

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Spectator Life reported, that The Drive in company will be attempting to recreate 1950’s America, with all the benefits of 2020 technology. Sound can be accessed automatically via the car radio, food and drink can be ordered on an app and delivered by social-distance trained staff. ‘Visibility is also not limited, important thanks to some 11am showtimes, as the screen is LED.’ The bonus, is that hardworking National Health Service staff and Careworkers will receive free tickets. Shows include Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing, Bad Boys, Get Out, 1917 and Grease.

According to the BBC, newer businesses are emerging and launching this new trend. Couple, Ian and Roseanne Marriott, recently invested £25,000 to launch Drive In Films. Talking to the BBC, Ian, with experience in the broadcast and entertainment industry said, “I got furloughed from the work that I normally do and we thought, what else could I do to support the family? We thought it fits with my skill-set and my background to do drive-in movie theatres. So we set up and it’s gone from an idea to being real very quickly.”

Hopefully, this is a trend that will quickly take off, as entertainment venues are still closed, the UK can safely participate in its much-loved outdoor events over the summer, in a new, yet nostalgic way whilst supporting the threatened entertainment industry.

Disneyland Sign

Disneyland Will Delay Reopening Amid Rising Covid-19 Numbers

Disneyland is among the many parks and establishments throughout the US that are shutting down again after making plans to reopen by the end of July. Initially Disneyland was projecting to reopen on July 17th, now, California, Florida, and countless other states are seeing major spikes in new Covid-19 cases which is prompting many state governments to reinstate lockdown procedures. 

In a statement posted to Disneyland’s social media platforms, the company announced that the state of California won’t issue any theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4th, however, their priorities lie more in getting the case numbers down before they think about opening up amusement parks or any other major businesses for that matter. 

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 “Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials.”

Disney continued to claim that they would be working with California officials closely in the coming weeks so that they can issue more concrete plans for a potential reopening this summer. Walt Disney World in Florida is still projecting to reopen by the end of July despite Florida being one of the many states with record-breaking single-day case numbers. Florida is especially under close observation, as the state is projected to be the next epicenter for the virus’ second-wave; much like New York City was during the initial wave of infections. 

The Downtown Disney District is still planning on reopening on July 9th, according to the statement. The reopening of this district follows the same guidelines as all other restaurants and retail openings in the state of California. For Disney World in Florida, the company is planning to reopen the first of several major theme park attractions on July 11th, however, they will need to continue to be in contact with Florida’s state government everyday in regards to new case numbers. 

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Both parks have lost millions of dollars in revenue since initially closing back in March, however, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, this hasn’t made a major economic impact for Disney. When the parks reopen, whenever that may be, visitors will also have to be prepared to abide by very strict health and safety/social distancing procedures while in the park. These measures will include wearing a mask at all times, remaining six feet apart from everyone by following markers on the ground, and character meet and greets will likely not be happening. Visitors will also be required to get their temperature checked prior to entering. 

Some attractions and events will remain shut down indefinitely until this pandemic comes to a more concrete close. Most parades and playgrounds will likely remain shutdown for the time being, and visitors will not be able to travel among multiple parks per day. 

Despite all of these health and safety measures, thousands of American citizens have signed a petition urging Disney to remain fully closed until “COVID-19 cases are no longer rising and no longer posing risk of spreading this disease to our working cast/team members, their families, and our theme park guests.” 

Florida is one of the most infected states in America currently with over 103,000 cases total. Union leaders representing around 17,000 Disneyland employees have also written a letter to the Governor arguing that it is unsafe and irresponsible to reopen the park, and more than 40,000 individuals signed a petition that came from them as well which called the companies plan to reopen “greedy.”

Another major point of contention has been the argument that even if Disney does fully reopen with every single health and safety procedure imaginable, are families really going to be willing to spend the money on a Disney ticket if they have to wear a mask and likely wait even longer for the limited rides that are available? Only time will tell if Disney will even be able to follow through with any of these plans, as we know, this virus is unpredictable, so anything can happen between now and July.

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‘Forces Sweetheart’ Dame Vera Lynn Dies Aged 103

Wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn who became known as the ‘forces sweetheart’ has died at the age of 103. Dame Lynn remained widely respected by both older and younger military personnel, as well as the wider community and continued to support the welfare of the forces right up until her death.

Dame Lynn died peacefully at her home in East Sussex, UK on the 18th June 2020 surrounded by family. She was considered one of Britain’s best entertainers and had continued to perform well into her older years. Her last public performance was in 1995 at Hyde Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day. She was best known for her iconic songs ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ which have been credited with helping to shape the mood of wartime Britain.

When the second world war was announced, Dame Lynn was a rising star and a dance band singer. Whilst many will attribute her wartime connection to her best known songs, she actually gained prominence through her radio series, Sincerely Yours, which helped to connect soldiers on the front line with their loved ones at home. This wasn’t enough for Dame Lynn though, and she really wanted to get out there and perform for the soldiers who were so far away from home and their loved ones. She visited troops in Europe and the Middle East and Asia, taking with her her trusted little diary where she would write notes and observations from her travels.

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Never one to shy away from difficult situations, Dame Lynn was particularly keen to perform for soldiers who had little access to entertainment. Some of the more prominent camps already had their fair share of entertainment and so Dame Lynn asked to be sent to somewhere where they had little or no entertainment. The response she was given was that the only place meeting that description was Burma. She didn’t hesitate and her decision to visit Burma despite the risks and conditions was perhaps one of her most defining moments.

After the war ended, she returned to her career as a singer and performer, but Dame Lynn’s visits during the war sparked a lifelong dedication to the welfare of veterans. She was awarded an OBE in 1968 and was made a dame in 1975. In 2016, she received a Companion of Honor and on her 100th birthday in 2017, she released a new album. A concert was also held in her honour at the London Palladium.

The coronavirus pandemic has been referenced as being the biggest crisis to affect the UK since World War II and there have been numerous references to Dame Lynn’s iconic songs during the outbreak. From celebrities posting their own versions of her classic songs on social media to the Queen herself quoting ‘we will meet again’ in her address to the nation, Dame Lynn’s had once again been propelled into the spotlight as a beacon of hope, love and support for those who are on the front line, facing uncertainty and sacrificing their own safety to help others.

Part of Dame Lynn’s appeal was her ability to connect with people from all walks of life. She was a working class girl at heart, born to a family in East London. She was the second child of Bertram Welch, who amongst other roles was a plumber and a docker, and Annie, who was a dressmaker. A young Vera would often sing at family parties and by the age of seven, she had started singing at a local working men’s club. She used her grandmother’s maiden name of Lynn, and this was to be the start of a long and fruitful performing career.

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Dame Lynn had a brief stint in films, which were primarily designed to boost war-time morale, and continued to perform long after the war had ended. She also faced controversy due to the popularity of her radio show ‘Sincerely Yours’, which did not garner the support of many politicians at the time. After being quoted as a ‘rafaned cockney’, she retorted that ‘millions of cockneys are fighting in this war’.

Dame Lynn remained committed to support charities right up until the end of her life. These included those supporting ex-service personnel as well as those connected to polio, breast cancer, blindness and cerebral palsy. She has had a street named after her called Dame Vera Lynn Close and a trust for children bears her name near her hometown in West Sussex.

Although the curtain may now have fallen on Dame Lynn’s final performance, her contributions, compassion and love will remain ingrained in our culture for many years to come. Her name is associated with comradery, hope and steadfastness, all admirable qualities that our generation will undoubtedly need as we face many unseen challenges and conflicts in the future.

African American Girl Reading Book

Black British Authors Top UK Book Charts But Does It Simply Underline The Racism in The Publishing Industry?

The tragic killing of George Floyd has sparked protests across the world supporting organisations such as the Black Lives Matter movement and addressing longstanding diseases such as police brutality, systemic racism and racial injustice. The protests have reached far and wide, in countries around the world. One of those is Britain, which has its own issues with embedded systemic racism and racial injustice. Peaceful protests have been filling the streets of cities, and have gone as far as to pull down statues of historic slave traders.

As discussions around black lives and racism take place online and offline, many are hungry to educate themselves on topics such as white privilege more thoroughly. This has led to a boom in book sales on the topic and literature from authors of colour. Recently, female authors, Bernardine Evaristo and Reni Eddo-Lodge took first place in the British Book charts, becoming the first black British authors to do so. An achievement that is well-deserved but perhaps should have been reached earlier. So, does this achievement say more about the systemic racism within the publishing industry?

Bernardine Evaristo’s novel Girl, Women, Other, has received many accolades, including the 2019 Booker Prize. ‘Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years’ and interweaves race, identity and womanhood into its narrative. Evaristo became the first black female to top the UK non-fiction charts. Award-winning journalist, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s released her brilliant book Why I am no Longer Talking to White People about Race in 2018, after beginning the discussion on a highly popular blog post of the same title. The book sparked a national conversation on race. It addresses topics such as class, privilege, white dominance, whitewashed feminism, overlooked black history and intersectionality in Britain against the backdrop of modern everyday racist occurrences. ‘Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak’ Reni outlined in the blurb.

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After The Bookseller announced Reni-Eddo Lodge’s achievement of number one in the non-fiction charts she voiced her opinion on social media, making the very astute and accurate observation: ‘Well, the numbers are in. I’m the first and only black woman to top Britian’s non-fiction book bestseller chart. Can’t help but be dismayed by this – the tragic circumstances in which this achievement came about. The fact that it’s 2020 and I’m the first. Let’s be honest. Reader demand aside, that it took this long is a horrible indictment of the publishing industry.’

Reni Eddo-Lodge continued on Instagram writing:
‘I want to elaborate on why I’m ‘dismayed’ at what many perceive to be an historic achievement. I understand why some of you might consider my reaction to this news to be unduly negative. But I can’t just uncritically celebrate breaking a barrier without asking why the hell the barriers were there in the first place. It pains me to be the first, to know that the present is still history, that we are making it, with our hands, right now. To know that injustice won’t be uprooted unless we throw ourselves and everything we have against it. To know that people in the past put their lives on the line and that the work still isn’t finished. That white society had to watch a man have the life squeezed out of him in order to wake up to black humanity. My emotions are conflicted at this time. If Angela Davis is feeling hopeful about this moment, then so will I…but I can’t stop being distressed about injustice just because I’m having individual success.”

It is a valid and eye-opening observation, which will hopefully open up further discussions about the systemic racism within the publishing industry. In the wake of George Floyd’s death publishers have been publicizing the works of that tackle racism, showcase non-white writers and are expressing their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. However, some Black authors have been revealing the disparity in their book advances compared to their white counterparts. BuzzFeed reported that Tochi Onyebuchi and L.L. McKinney began the twitter campaign, calling out that publishing industries solidarity did not extend to their advances. McKinney began the hashtag #PublishingPaidMe that quickly took off.

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BuzzFeed wrote: [Jesmyn] Ward, a two-time National Book Award winner for 2011’s Salvage the Bones and 2017’s Sing, Unburied Sing, tweeted that even after she won the award for the former book, she had to fight for a $100,000 advance for her next book deal. In contrast, white literary fiction author Lydia Kiesling sold her debut novel, The Golden State, for $200,000; a year and a half after publication, she tweeted, she is still “very far from selling that many books”.

In an open letter to the publishing industry, fellow author Dorothy Koomson wrote on Twitter that ‘publishing is a hostile environment for Black authors’ specifically addressing the major players rather than the ‘inclusive indies’. Koomson goes on to outline the obstacles black authors faces, such as having being limited to certain ‘tick-box’ qualities.

She writes: ‘Let me also be clear: Black Writers do not want special consideration, we do not want special treatment, we want a level playing field, an equality of opportunity, the chance to write books and explore as many subjects and genres as our white counterparts. We want to look around and see other black people being as successful as us in all different genres in all branches of the publishing business. And that is not the experience of most of us when we come to write our books or have them promoted or see them on the shelves.