The entertainment industry will put a spotlight on dormant venues across the country as it continues to feel the economic brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Sept. 22, the industry is planning to light up venues in red, including in Kamloops, drawing awareness to that impact, which has reverberated in empty theatres, galleries and halls.
Event workers, venues and companies are being asked to participate, signalling to Canadians a so-called “red alert,” that the industry is ready to work, but cannot, due to restrictions in place to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
GK Sound owner Greg Klohn said Sagebrush Theatre, Pavilion Theatre, the Kamloops Art Gallery and possibly other venues in the city will be lit up in red for a couple of hours after sundown on Tuesday, Sept. 22. He said he hopes to draw awareness to an industry in need of continued financial support.
The industry is made up of many people who work behind the scenes, including sound and lighting people, like Klohn, but also manufacturers, distributers and those at rental companies and venues. There are also, of course, the artists.
Klohn said 152,000 entertainment industry jobs in Canada have been lost in the past six months.
“The arts and entertainment sector is a huge sector,” Klohn said. “Without continued support, it’s going to be challenging for everybody.”
James Dreyer of Dreyer Bros. Sound said his business is down 90 per cent, due to restrictions on mass gatherings.
“We, as a collective group, have major issues where we’re the first to be put out of work because of public gathering restrictions and we’re obviously the last to go back,” he said.
Klohn said business will not return for the foreseeable future, due to pandemic-related restrictions in place. His business has attempted to diversify and create new revenue streams, but he said it only goes so far.
Klohn conceded public health comes first, but added more planning is needed as supports run out. His company has relied on rent and wage subsidies. The rent subsidy has been helpful, but is only three months, he said, problematic when paying for a 6,000-square-foot warehouse with a fraction of the revenue stream. The wage subsidy, meanwhile, is set to expire at the end of the year.
“What I think a lot of people’s concern is, come December, when the wage subsidy is due to be over, we’re stuck in January in the slowest season for any production company, hoping we’re going to make it to the summer, really,” Klohn said.
“Currently, there’s no plans for any support at that point.”
Klohn is also asking people to support the industry online.
For more on the day of visibility for the live event community, including a map of places where venues will be lit up in red, go online to lightuplive.ca.