Will the Lockdown Change A/V as We Know It?

Ah, the good old days. Happy crowds coming together in joyful celebration, shopping together for a new TV on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Seems like only yesterday.

Oh, wait, it was. But in the greater scheme of things, how the current Wuhan Virus pandemic will affect our small world of consumer audio-video isn’t a big topic on the nightly news. Nevertheless, that’s our gig here, and it’s important to consider the possible consequences. Will this be the end of the A/V world as we know it?

I don’t think so, but it could have significant consequences. I’ve written about a few of them in recent blogs, but there’s always more to be said. On the possible future viability of movie theaters, some grumbling in the past week suggested a possible bankruptcy at AMC, the largest theater chain in the country. Just recently, however, AMC announced a plan to arrange for $500 million in new loans to keep it solvent until Thanksgiving, assuming theaters will be open by then.

But there’s more than one type of business closure. If a theater or other business burns down without insurance, and the owners have no other resources, it might be gone forever. If, however, it simply closes for lack of funds and can’t get a loan to stay open, the infrastructure is still there. Assuming the anticipation of future profits, a buyer might be found to take over a theater, or an entire theater chain. But it’s also possible that a full-chain buyer would close less profitable outlets in smaller towns. New York, Chicago, and LA theaters would survive, but the future of theaters in places such as my relatively small town here in coastal northwest Florida would be in doubt despite this being a heavy tourist area. I can only hope that the new AMC arrangements will allow them to keep all of their theaters active when they reopen.

But if theaters do reopen in the fall, will audiences return immediately or will there be a slow bounce-back — or none at all? There’s no way to know that for now. But at least some theatergoers might be anxious to catch up on the major films that weren’t released on pay-per-view during the lockdown. There are biggies in that group, including the new Bond flick No Time to Die, a new Marvel movie The Eternals, and Tenet, the latest Christopher Nolan film.

Fans may not only be bored with TV by then, but could find that TV has become a forest of reruns with no new shows to watch. Why? Because those shows would normally be in production by now. Hollywood, like most businesses that require in-person contact to function, isn’t currently producing anything. The only possible exceptions are writers, with the luxury of writing scripts without the pressure of having to finish them yesterday. They might even have an entire season of scripts ready to go before episode one even starts production — an unheard of luxury.

The economic effect on retail sales has been and will be crushing. Sales of audio and video products have been affected as well, perhaps more so than some as they’re typically non-essential or even impulse buys. You certainly won’t see a flood of Black Friday-like buyers filling the stores any time soon.

High-end audio could well take the biggest hit. It’s heavy with small, competing companies created in anticipation of making it big, or because of a passion for what they do, or both. The effect on video, mainly televisions, might be less severe but not trivial. While most folks cooped up at home are watching more television than ever before, they already have a working set. Some may be tempted to upgrade, but this won’t create a flood of buyers.

In a recent blog from the British website AV Forums (not to be confused with the AVS Forum in the US) it was even suggested that set makers, experiencing delays in consistent deliveries of their new 2020 sets, might even forego new 2021 models for next year. We’ve received or been promised several new 2020 sets for review, but how that reflects on retail availability is at present unknown. A visit to my local Best Buy to investigate isn’t currently possible, but a stroll through Amazon did show far more 2019 models for sale there than 2020s. For those with the resources there might be appealing sales out there, as brick and mortar and on-line sellers struggle to keep afloat. But just be sure you know which year’s model you’re getting that good deal on.

Long term, many surviving vendors, particularly audio, might take a closer look at the decisions they made to move production off-shore over the past decades. Moving back might raise prices, since most budget and mid-range products, and some at the high-end as well, fall into that category. The long-term tradeoffs one way or the other will be controversial.

We can only hope that this historic pandemic, affecting far more than our own little corner of the world, is over soon. We’re living in interesting times.

COMMENTS
Mark Kruger's picture

As a A/v Retailer people will continue to watch movies and listen to high end audio at home. Yes! there will be impact but with the financial issues consumers are facing entertainment at home is their "best" option. As for the reason why there is a lack of 2020 models? That's due to the "manufacturing" supply chain disruption just when the new model were to be released. Certainly, time will tell.

Pedro14's picture

A great opportunity to put a nice home theater in a customers' home!

Skippy Steve's picture

Wuhan Virus? Come on...smarten up.

alexanderc's picture

I'm rather shocked that this terminology would make it into a public article. The disease has a couple accepted scientific names, so using this one would appear to be a political statement by Sound & Vision. If it is, that would be extremely disappointing.

Pedro14's picture

From where did it originate?

mmptm4686's picture

Shortly

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Yes Wuhan virus. Stop being so triggered and try to leave politics out of an av blog.

Skippy Steve's picture

The blog author made his post political... and no one comes here (or maybe they do, but clearly shouldn't) for political anything. Where it originated couldn't matter less...It's called WW1, not Assassination of Franz Ferdinand War.... But that's not the point. This hobby should be an escape from the other "stuff" we're all dealing with. And it's clearly not "triggering". If someone wants political commentary or positioning there are innumerable places to find it. Sound and Vision shouldn't be one of them.

Tom D.'s picture

who cares what he called it? I read the article for the article and had to go back to see where it was even said. lighten up people

Skippy Steve's picture

I'm a pretty "light" guy for the most part. But for whatever reason this tweaked. The "who cares" is a complicated question with mostly uncomfortable answers...but clearly there are those that do. I'd prefer my distractions to be free of bias and politics, but I guess that's an unrealistic request. And this shouldn't be the forum for serious discussion. Regardless, I'm out.... Enjoy the site!

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Good.

Olaf the Snowman's picture

What should we call the 'Spanish flu' and 'MERS virus' ? ......

rorcocobun's picture

Please correct to COVID-19. After all the 1918 Influenza Pandemic didn't originate in Spain.

Olaf the Snowman's picture

According to Google search ..... 'Spanish flu' originated in the Iberian Peninsula ...... Spain is one of the countries in the Iberian Peninsula .......

Thomas J. Norton's picture
It appears that a few readers have read a lot into a simple statement (by me alone; an imprimatur from Sound & Vision is not part of the blog process) referring to the origin of the current virus. This is a one-word political statement only if your mind works that way.

Yes I know it has a formal name, COVID-19, which I’ve used in a previous blog and will again it I ever have a future need to refer to it. My calling it Wuhan here (one word, one time in multi-hundred word blog) seems to have offended a few folks. But apart from my A/V obsession I’m also a history nut. In historical terms this is the first time I’m aware of, in at least a hundred years, that a pandemic virus hasn’t been formally named after the place of its origin, or at least the place where the first cases were observed. I won’t suggest the reasons for that change here (too political!!) but in the past we’ve had the Spanish flu, the Asian flu, the Hong Kong flu, the Russian flu, SARS (Southeast Asia Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East), Lyme disease, Ebola (after the Ebola River in Africa) Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and likely others. Does anyone now know their “scientific” names, if they ever had them?

I’m actually surprised that my penultimate paragraph, briefly raising issues regarding offshore manufacturing of most of the products we desire in the A/V world, wasn’t mentioned. If anything in the blog was political, that discussion was more pointed than anything regarding the name of the current virus. International events (economic, political, and medical) are more inextricably linked to the products we consume than we usually care to think about.

Old Ben's picture

Tom, I am not as much of a history buff as you, so I will take your examples of other diseases named after their locations at face value. However, there is a difference here. Based on my own observations, this disease has been most commonly referred to as COVID-19 or simply coronavirus. The only instances where I am aware of the disease being called the "Wuhan virus" or "Chinese Virus" were when Trump said it or the media reported on Trump using it. The consensus from that coverage is that usage of those terms is an attempt to blame a region and a culture for a pandemic affecting the entire world. Considering the results of world history when one group of people is made the scapegoat for a problem, many people are rightly concerned and wary when such terms are used. So no, it's not much ado about nothing.

alexanderc's picture

I appreciate your explanation, Mr. Norton. I must agree with another commenter here that concerns over the well-being of others should take priority over past naming conventions. Many news outlets have documented examples of racism and xenophobia against people of Asian descent both in the US and around the world related to the COVID-19 virus. There is a lengthy Wikipedia post on the subject, as well as myriad news articles. Now that we see the consequences of the historical naming conventions, it is time to change them. I am glad to read that you are willing to use "COVID-19" moving forward. Thank you.

Nate T's picture

I created an account just to tell you what a clown you are. You absolutely know the politics of referring to covid-19 as the Wuhan Virus. Seriously, fuck you.

Olaf the Snowman's picture

I just came up with this great idea ........ Let us call it 'New York Virus' ........ New York has the most number of people affected by the virus ........

Tom D.'s picture

and while the virus continues, the NFL draft virtually goes on with the Washington Redskins still making their picks. The nerve...

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