The Future of Cinema

Since its inception in 1885 with the Lumiere Brothers’ public screening of La Sortie de l’Usine Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon), cinema has been a collective experience, the modern equivalent of gathering around the campfire for storytelling. It continues to shape our perceptions, our attitudes, and the larger culture by providing a sort of shared mythology. However, the COVID-19 pandemic with its social restrictions has altered the ways in which films are delivered to the audience and how we process them, just as the 1918 influenza epidemic affected the nascent film industry of that era.

Scholars believe that there is much to learn by comparing and contrasting the effects of these and other outbreaks on cinema worldwide. In this roundtable discussion by six of those scholars, UC Santa Barbara professors Stephen Groening, Maggie Hennefeld, Brian Jacobson, and Jocelyn Szcepaniak-Gillece examine how the study of pandemics past – most especially the 1918 epidemic – sheds new light on how the current health crisis is reshaping the world of cinema, and whether or not those changes are likely to become permanent. Moderated by Patrice Petro, the conversation addresses such topics as questions of financial risk and exposure in the media industries as the balance of revenue sources shifts; the challenges to the movie theater’s traditional role as public space; and how reliance on streaming services has changed our fundamental understanding of cinema. The participants also explore how fears of viral infection are reshaping the literal and figurative “atmosphere” of moviegoing, since it remains to be seen if audiences (particularly older segments) will return to movie theaters in pre-pandemic numbers.

Finally, the panelists describe various strategies employed by the major studios and film distributors to adapt to changing circumstances. The consensus is that while there will always be a substantial audience of hardcore moviegoers who insist on seeing films on the big screen, the burgeoning popularity of services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, and others will continue. A pattern has already developed whereby many new releases have a brief theatrical run, after which (and in some cases during the run) they appear on digital platforms. Though initially confined to independent films this release pattern has become increasingly the pandemic-induced norm, and may eventually be limited solely to big budget blockbuster titles as marketing and distribution costs continue to skyrocket.

The specifics of the long-term future of cinema are as yet undetermined, but a close study of historical antecedents may help us to discern its outlines.

Watch Roundtable 1920/2020 – How COVID-19 is Reshaping Cinema.

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The Art and Science of Atmospheric Rivers and the Changing Hydroclimate of the West

California’s unique geography, with some of the continent’s highest mountains situated close to the broad expanse of the Pacific Ocean helps make California’s precipitation regime the most volatile in the country. This volatility, characterized by large natural swings between drought and extremely rainy years make water resource management in California notoriously difficult. Global climate change is expected to exacerbate the volatility by decreasing the frequency of regional precipitation while increasing its intensity. Join meteorologist Alexander Gershunov to learn how he and other researchers quantify and analyze this volatility to understand the mechanisms behind these changes, and project their anticipated impacts on California.

Watch The Art and Science of Atmospheric Rivers and the Changing Hydroclimate of the West – Impacts of Climate Change in California and The West.

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China and Latin American Energy

The People’s Republic of China has become a major investor, lender and actor across the energy sector in Latin America and the Caribbean. Indeed, loans and investments from China have financed an impressive array of projects in infrastructure, energy and mining.

With more than $58 billion invested between 2000 and 2019, China has clearly staked a claim in Latin America’s energy sector. In 2020, Chinese M&A deals in Latin America and the Caribbean energy reached $7.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, or 25% of Chinese acquisitions worldwide.

With the contours of the global energy transition and increased attention on reducing emissions and climate action spurring huge growth in renewable energy, China has flexed its muscles in that segment of the global energy sector and in Latin America and the Caribbean. China’s growing presence in Latin America presents challenges to the United States, which the new Biden administration must address. A new administration together with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress provides an opportune moment to reset. Indeed, the new administration has an opportunity to counter China and strengthen US-Latin America relations by encouraging private investment, particularly in mining, clean energy and infrastructure projects.

Cecilia Aguillon, Energy Transition Initiative Director and Jeremy Martin, Vice President, Energy & Sustainability at the Institute of the Americas present an overview of the latest Energy & Sustainability program’s report followed by a discussion panel with Matt Ferchen, Head of Global China Research at Mercator Institute for China Studies and Michael Davidson, Assistant Professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UCSD.

Watch China Stakes its Claim in Latin American Energy: What it Means for the Region, the US and Beijing.

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The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis

The steady and alarming rise in antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest challenges to public health and modern medicine. The U.S. CDC estimates that drug-resistant bacteria sicken more than 2 million people annually, causing 23,000 deaths and resulting in $20 billion in excess health-care costs and an additional $35 billion in lost productivity. The antibiotic resistance crisis is particularly devastating in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where such infections strike the most vulnerable patients with weak immune systems or chronic diseases.

Dr. Victor Nizet, a physician-scientist and member of the UC San Diego faculty for almost 20 years, explains that the roots of our current dilemma are multifactorial. Overzealous use of antibiotics in both clinical and agricultural settings, the departure of major pharmaceutical companies from antibiotic development (viewed as unprofitable), and simple Darwinian evolution of microbes exposed to life-or-death selective pressures each contribute profoundly. Can we, through public awareness, changes in medical practice, and scientific innovation, lift ourselves out of the hole that we have dug?

In the face of the exploding resistance crisis, Dr. Nizet and colleagues have turned their attention to discovering innovative future solutions that go “beyond antibiotics” to help patients with serious infections. These include strategies to strip the bacteria of their virulence factors and toxins to render them harmless, approaches to boost the natural antibacterial killing activity of our own white blood cells, and studies to understand how antibiotics and other existing drugs may work to cure infection in partnership with our immune system – not just how they work in a test tube. Dr. Nizet is spearheading a new initiative involving nearly 50 UCSD faculty named the “Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes” or CHARM, which will make its debut later this year.

Watch The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis – Exploring Ethics .

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Homeland Security in the Post-Trump Era

The Biden-Harris administration faces an evolving mix of foreign and domestic threats. Repairing the damage done to domestic security agencies and returning public confidence is at the core of this conversation among four former leaders of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, served as Secretaries of the Department under President George W. Bush. Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson served during the Obama administration. The discussion is moderated by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas B. Wilson.

The panel explores topics from Russian interference in the 2016 election to the racism of the white nationalist groups that were prominent in the January 6 attack on the capitol, and the role of social media in both. They note that the department was created in 2002 based on the assumption that terrorism came from beyond our borders but the principal threat is now increasingly domestic-based.

Challenges abound for the new Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The panel agrees his job includes rebuilding trust in the department, a trust that was eroded by former Present Trump who systematically undermined the department, using it for political gain rather than public safety.

Fortunately, they have faith in the national security officials’ ability to meet the current challenges.

Watch Homeland Security in a Post-Trump Era: Bipartisan Insights for the Coming Years.

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