It's nothing new to say this current nationwide situation is 'unprecedented,' but that doesn't diminish the facts -- the way people approach everything from work to grocery shopping is entirely different now, and it seems the entertainment industry has taken one of the largest hits.

Dependent on large in-person gatherings, most theaters nationwide have shut down. Box Office Mojo reported this last weekend's revenue totaling $417,000, with the largest film showing in just 99 theaters. Concerts big and small have been postponed if not outright cancelled. That's seen up close and personal with the fate of Tuscaloosa's Hollywood 16 up in the air, with more and more fixed costs piling up with zero returns.

This all poses the question: with all these new means of continuing life as normal, what's the alternative to this?

Enter: Alan Jackson's 'Small Town Drive In' concert series, which kicked off with two shows in Cullman and Fairhope, Alabama, on June 12 and 13. The stage announcer proudly proclaimed this was "The largest gathering in the world in the last three months," and that Jackson was the "First person to do this at this capacity."

To achieve this, ticket holders arrived at the venue - a large grassy field - and were guided by staff into tight, organized rows. For the general admission price of $99 per car, and $39 per person above 2, an entire family could enjoy the show for the price of one ticket. The sea of truck beds stretched about as far as the setting sun, as families pulled out their lawn chairs and coolers of food -- for an additional charge, of course.

The important takeaway was not just the ease of operation, nor the comfort of setting up one's own personal viewing station, but the fact that the concert was able to keep itself within the limits of Governor Kay Ivey's statewide social distancing guidelines -- as workers still wore masks, and audience members were urged to stay close to their own vehicles.

Is the next step for Tuscaloosa is to implement something of relative scale locally? It would obviously require adapting to the city's layout and varying guidelines, but it would demonstrate that we as a city are rolling with the punches.

Up until now, Mayor Walt Maddox has gone the route of cancelling all public events until May 31st, including shows at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. In that time, Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports has hosted 2 virtual concerts, but Jackson's recent shows prove there are newer, better, and equally safe alternatives to returning to a sense of normalcy.

"I think this whole country's ready for a good time," Jackson said, as he introduced his song by the same name.

For months we've wondered how to get there, and maybe now we have a place to start looking.

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