With growing concerns about a rise in COVID cases and a new indoor mask mandate for Los Angeles being implemented starting Saturday night, some in-person Hollywood events are already being canceled.
A Friday night screening of “Joe Bell,” hosted by stars Mark Wahlberg and Reid Miller at WME in Beverly Hills, was canceled several hours before it was set to go forward after the agency announced that it would be closing its Los Angeles offices for at least a week beginning Monday.
Also canceled is a surprise “Ted Lasso” cast Q&A on Saturday at the Tower Theater Apple Store in downtown Los Angeles. The 30-minute panel, moderated by Variety’s Jazz Tangcay, was to include cast members from the Emmy-nominated comedy series. Two outdoor “Ted Lasso” events are still taking place this weekend. A screening and conversation is happening Friday evening at the Pacific Design Center and then a smaller affair is on Saturday at Ross House with current Variety cover stars Waddingham and Juno Temple.
On Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that it will be reinstating the indoor mask mandate “regardless of vaccination status” due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The new mask policy will begin at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.
Several areas in Northern California are recommending wearing masks indoors, though not making it a mandate as in L.A.
More Hollywood events and venues may be impacted by the growing number of COVID-19 cases, including movie theaters, which have recently begun reopening and welcoming back guests after mask mandates and capacity restrictions were lifted. The COVID spike and return of the mask mandate is a tough blow to the already battered exhibition business, especially as it comes just as moviegoing was picking up with the success of Marvel’s “Black Widow” and Universal’s “F9” tentpoles.
“It’s wise to continue preparing for all scenarios when it comes to the evolution of audience sentiment during this recovery process but it’s too soon to tell if renewed mask mandates in localized areas will discourage much activity. There’s still a pent-up desire to get back to normality,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, told Variety. “With many people having had a taste of that so far this summer, it would be challenging to expect such encouraging trends to reverse significantly as long as vaccines continue proving to be effective against known variants.”
Moviegoing and other live events will be facing unpredictable situations, like the return of L.A. County’s mask mandate, for some time. It’s a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over.
“This comes down to a risk for those unable or unwilling to be vaccinated, many of whom may not have returned to cinemas or other social gatherings yet in the first place for that very reason. The needle may not move much, but there’s no guarantee of anything under such unique circumstances,” Robbins said. “It’s a development we should keep an eye on but, ultimately, also one that has been expected for awhile as part of the transition back to pre-pandemic behaviors.”