Experts: Demand for ‘the Experience’ is Key to Entertainment Industry Rebound

Emagine Entertainment co-founder and chairman Paul Glantz.

Since March 2020, the goal for the world has been to “get back to normal.”

Dining out, going to the movies and working out at the gym were all once part of everyday life. After the pandemic struck, however, these industries were hit with mandates that all but prohibited the ability to give consumers the experiences they came to expect.

Capacity and masking mandates took the shine off these experiences, but now that Michigan is back to business as usual, the entertainment industry is still in flux—but not necessarily in a bad way.

Restaurants, which were particularly hard hit, are noticing a phenomenon.

“You’re seeing check averages way up,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO, Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Some is inflation, but some people have pent up demand for the experience. That’s making up for traffic and the number of people dining away from home.”

However, even with the average amount of money spent in a restaurant up, the talent shortage is limiting the ability for restaurateurs to capitalize on the demand. After all, the restaurant industry in Michigan operated with capacity restrictions for 463 days.

“We started seeing it in April with the stimulus checks, then the flood gates were wide open in June,” said Winslow. “It was too fast for what (restaurants) were capable of delivering on. The supply isn’t able to respond, and the workforce was not there to meet this much demand. You’re seeing restaurants sit out this period. Some are closing just some days. It’s not something the industry wants to see permanent, but it’s the best way to manage it.”

Michael Gray is director of operations at Grey Ghost Detroit.

“It feels more normal. There’s still a little general hesitation but we’re seating every table. The energy is back in that regard,” he said.

Grey Ghost Detroit isn’t back up to pre-pandemic sales numbers, according to Gray. But with new safety measures in place, customers can expect a better dining experience, and that’s making a difference.

“We don’t allow standing room at this time. We’re controlling that traffic. But a comprehensively better experience is showing in the sales numbers,” Gray said.

The movie industry is seeing an uptick in sales as well.

“Our trade association is polling, now we’re up to 70-80 percent of people saying they’re comfortable coming back to the movies. I think it’ll ramp up. As more folks come, they see it’s clean, they see we’re providing the same experience they valued and recalled, and they’ll tell their friend. Word of mouth will spread,” said Paul Glantz, chairman of Emagine Entertainment.

Glantz said many streaming platforms, which offered new release movies during the pandemic, are expected to go back to traditional formatting by 2022, which will also help, considering June 2021 was the first positive month for Emagine in 15 months.

Like restaurants and movies, the fitness industry sales records show patrons are eager to work off their “COVID weight.”

“Life Time was proactive in our cleaning and safety protocols around COVID-19 and our members have shown they trust our operations. We are exceeding expectations,” said Amy Williams, manager, Public Relations for Life Time. “Life Time has been exceeding expectations across the nation, including in Michigan. Members and team members are excited to be back and focused on their overall health and wellness.”

While dining out may take longer, the industries claim to be heading in a positive direction. Consumers are eager to re-experience the creature comforts of 2019 and the entertainment industry is eager to serve.