The culture and entertainment sectors continue with digital innovations

Much of the discourse of the last decade on digital transformation seemed more like a distant sci-fi future than a real possibility for the thriving sectors of culture and entertainment.

While there may have been efforts to adopt virtual processes before the pandemic, product consumption and transactions were still largely focused on physical audience attendance in galleries and movie theaters. Stakeholders understood that there was nothing quite like the experience of closely examining the brushstrokes of a painting in art spaces or watching movies on the big screen.

Rio Ambrosio, owner of the Galería Artes Orientes based in BGC. Lilybeth G. Rasonable, Senior Vice President, Entertainment Group, GMA. Joey R. Abacan, Senior Vice President of Program Management, GMA

After all, it was an arrangement that has played sweet music for years, even generations, to the tune of billions of dollars in global industry value. Market and consumer specialist Statista reported that the value of global art market sales was $64.4 billion in 2019, while global box office receipts were $42.3 billion for the same year.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit and restrictions were imposed on wide swathes of the world, the industries formula for success became its own recipe for disaster. People stayed at home and, consequently, away from cultural and entertainment establishments. Global art market sales in 2020 fell 21.9 percent. With the closure of public spaces, including theaters, worldwide box office receipts saw an even greater decline of 72.1 percent.

Twenty-twenty was a time when the threats of the worst global pandemic in more than a century hung over everyone’s heads. The general feeling of fear and uncertainty led people to look for a distraction, an escape…something. It was a demand that art and entertainment could and did meet, fulfilling its purpose through virtual means.

Ultimately, the digital transformation that industries had been delaying accelerated. Philippine industry players believe that the new processes and practices not only helped propel the sectors through the toughest of times; more than that, it promoted the necessary evolution, presenting innovations that are here to stay.

a strong bounce

“OVERALL, we survived the worst of the pandemic,” said Rio Ambrosio, owner of BGC-based Galería Artes Orientes. “I am not aware of any galleries that have closed, and that should speak for itself.”

The local visual arts scene was one of the few that maintained a relatively healthy business during the height of the pandemic. Of course, it was not spared its own set of challenges, working with logistical hurdles and mobility restrictions. In general, however, gallery owners and artists benefited from the renewed interest in the arts. Statista reports that after the 2020 crash, the total global art market transaction value in 2021 recovered to $65.1 billion, which even surpassed the 2019 record. The trend is due to several factors, including quarantined customers with nothing to do but fill the blank walls of their sprawling homes with artwork, as well as the rise of NFTs and cryptoart that promised quicker riches.

The industry met the growing demand by adopting digital processes, such as setting up virtual exhibitions. Even marquee art events staged fully virtual exhibits for the first time in 2021, including Art Basel Hong Kong, Frieze New York, and Manila’s Art in the Park.

Ambrosio also serves as the head of the Exhibitor Relations Committee for ManilART, labeled as the original and national art fair as a project co-hosted by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCAA). Scheduled for its 14th edition from October 19-23 at the SMX Aura Convention Center, this year’s event is themed “Forging Futures.” The concept reflects the general forward-thinking mentality of the local art industry. “ManilART 22 will continue to set higher bar and inspire the art industry as a force to be reckoned with. He’s been through the toughest times, but he’s holding his ground,” he said. “With the support of NCCA, its partners, especially the media, ManilART looks forward to a more vibrant art industry.”

Veteran gallery owner Carlo Reyes also highlights the resilience of the industry. “Despite the pandemic, the art scene is doing great,” he said.

Reyes has been involved in the art scene for 12 years and plans to open a new space next year called Fuse Projects. He said that galleries, collectors and artists have learned to adapt to the new normal and have adapted well to survive. “I think we need to use all the new tools available at our disposal to thrive. We need to persevere, be more careful and creative.”

Meanwhile, at a virtual round table in May, called the Nuit des idées (The Night of Ideas), with the theme “[Re]Building Together: Smart Ideas, Smart Projects Born During the Pandemic,” Philippine Cultural Center Artistic Director Chris Millado shared how they found great value in smart technology.

“Video archive and live streaming – this saved our lives,” he said. “We immediately made a quick pivot to digital platforms. Many years ago, we began to digitize and archive our productions and performances. We have hidden thousands of video titles in a corner of the basement. We didn’t know how to distribute them, but they were there for archival purposes. When the pandemic hit, we found a treasure trove of digital content that we used in live streaming. This gave birth to CCP Channel.”

“Change is not a completely bad thing,” Reyes said. “Art, just like our human resilience, will never die out.”


ALSO making things work with lean processes are the television and film industries.

In recent years, industries have adapted to multi-level renovations in pre- and post-production practices. This included story and script changes, and overhauling the manpower add-on for studio and location shoots, among others.

According to Lilybeth G. Rasonable, senior vice president of the entertainment group at GMA Network, the pandemic has brought to the fore the use of digital tools and processes that allowed them to continue their productions effectively.

The change in work routines also comes with a mindset to conduct operations as normally as possible, said Jose Mari R. Abacan, senior vice president of GMA Network’s program management department.

“People will always have a need to be entertained and to have information, and television is still the main source of that in our country,” Abacan said, adding that he sought help from other partners to broadcast programs on his channels. “In addition to the canned content, we were still able to host live variety and game shows, and there were also local dramas. It was also at this time that we launched our DTT channels, including I Heart Movies, which caters to the needs of moviegoers”.

Both executives acknowledged the rise of online streaming platforms. Abacan did not hesitate to label online streaming platforms as “game changers”, especially during the height of the pandemic. As for the TV side, Rasonable said they “welcome the challenge of continuing to push better and more competitive content.”

“We have also penetrated these online streaming platforms, providing quality content in their programming, while continuing to strive to reach the widest possible audience,” he added.

As the dust of Covid-19 settles and the world moves towards the new normal, industry stakeholders are reflecting on the value of their jobs. Rasonable, for her part, admitted that she has a renewed sense of appreciation for the role of entertainment in people’s lives.

“When the pandemic passed and we all had to stay home, entertainment programs kept us company, helping us get through such a difficult time in our lives,” he said.

“Producing entertainment shows at the height of the pandemic made me realize even more the importance of what we do: how our shows not only entertain but also teach, enlighten, keep us sane in the midst of everything that happens to us. around us and give us hope. for better days to come.”

Image credits: RioAmbrosio and GMA Network

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