The Show Must Go On: Getting Creative and Better than Ever

by Kerry Dunne

We could be entering a “Golden Age of Entertainment.” This is, admittedly, a bold statement given that shockwaves have rippled through the industry as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. From major culinary events to live concerts, all has ceased for now. Only the future will tell, and it may be the creativity of artists and producers that triumphs over all.

Anyone who has purchased a ticket to their favorite culinary event, rock concert or theatrical performance has experienced the disappointment of the pandemic’s impact on the industry firsthand.  Even when things normalize a bit, it appears showbiz may be one of the last industries back to “normal.”

And yet, the centerstone of the entertainment industry is its creativity — from artists to producers. Many artists and promoters, similar to R Entertainment, customarily work at a feverish pace, which doesn’t allow collectively much time to create because “execution mode” is always on.

Today, given the forced halt to touring and producing, we believe we will see the results of an unusual level of creativity from singers, songwriters, musicians and producers, because right now they’ve been given the gift of time.

Similarly, we’ve had to get creative in how shows are delivered to audiences.

When our industry came to a halt, it took about a week and then we sprang in to action. How to do what we do, but differently, and still connect with fans and still have an impact?

As it goes, my partner Reed Glick’s daughter, a high school senior, one day was lamenting about missing the pomp and circumstance of her high school graduation. She thought it would be a cool idea to create a pop-up “drive-in” so her entire class could have their graduation in the safety of their cars, and have the principal and valedictorian give their address via video from the drive-in movie screen. R Entertainment’s inspiration for the “SRF Drive-in Movie Experience” was born.

R Entertainment had to pivot and check out the “drive-in delivery model.” We created a pop-up drive-in movie theater at Salt River Fields to see what would happen. It’s been sold out nearly every weekend for two shows every Thursday through Saturday night.

“Adapt and overcome” has been our motto during these challenging times. In our business, you can’t be too risk-averse, otherwise nothing ever happens. But this time, with more than usual trepidation, we moved forward and saw vividly that you never know when you drop a pebble into a stream what the ripple effect is going to be.

And that ripple effect has grown. Since launching the drive-in movie business, R Entertainment has been contacted by a surprising number of businesspeople in areas we never thought of. First, we received calls almost immediately after the drive-in movie press release was distributed, from companies that wanted to “buy out” a night for their employees. Then we received inquiries about how companies could pay it forward by purchasing tickets for first responders. And then several major talent agencies that R Entertainment works with daily asked how their artists could perform “Car Concerts” at the new pop-up venue, seeing it as a new way to entertain and reach their fans, and seeing that R Entertainment already was executing this new model.

Only for now, this may be a new normal: sitting in the safety of your own vehicle, carefully social distancing while enjoying a favorite band on stage or a comedian performing — and hearing all through radio speakers, much improved since the days of the 1960s and 1970s and 1980s. And instead of the coveted meet-and-greet, fans can interact with favorite artists on Instagram.

In 20 years, folks who lived through this and consumed their live entertainment while in their car will think back to these days just like fans of the ’60s fondly remember Woodstock, or how this generation romanticizes Coachella.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Entertainment. Thanks for taking the ride with us.

Kerry Dunne

Reed Glick

Kerry Dunne is a partner, with Reed Glick, of Scottsdale-based R Entertainment, which produces more than 200 concerts, festivals and corporate events each year.

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