COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.: Though a number of the nation’s resident theatres have announced plans to stay dark until the spring of 2021 amid uncertainty around the global spread of COVID-19, a new study from international arts management consultants TRG Arts tells a slightly more hopeful story, particularly about American theatres. The study, titled “Arts and Culture 2020 Comeback,” finds that as many as 63 percent of U.S. venues are planning some kind of return to live performance in the fall of 2020, compared to 54 percent of TRG clients overall surveyed across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
The delivery method and specifics for these returns to performance are highly variable, and will rely on national and local guidance, the study shows. They include a mix of socially distanced live performance, open-air gatherings, and streamed or recorded performances delivered online. Among the performing arts genres, dance and multidisciplinary organizations are the most optimistic, and theatre and opera are the least rosy. TRG’s U.S. client expectations for returning in 2020 by genre are:
- Multi-genre performing arts centers: 100 percent
- Dance: 86 percent
- Orchestra: 57 percent
- Presenter 57 percent
- Opera 50 percent
- Theatre 50 percent
Surprisingly, the study finds that U.S. coastal regions, the hardest and earliest impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns, are also among the most optimistic for a fall return. Midwestern clients are the least optimistic, with a majority planning for a January 2021 return. By region, TRG U.S. client expectations for returning in 2020 by region are:
- South: 100 percent
- Southeast: 75 percent
- Northeast:71 percent
- West: 55 percent
- Midwest: 38 percent
The study also examines TRG clients’ current “Plan A” and “Plan B” scenarios across all disciplines of performing arts in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Fifty-four percent of all clients report their “Plan A” for reopening is slated to take place between August and December 2020, with just one third planning a traditional September season start. Of those planning a return in 2020, only 19 percent plan to wait until December to perform.
Fifty percent of clients do not have a solidified “Plan B,” with most approaching secondary scenario planning from the perspective of delaying opening decisions month-by-month. “If it’s not Month A, then it’s Month A+1” is a frequent client sentiment. Of those clients with an articulated “Plan B,” fully half plan to perform in Q1 of 2021.
If already not performing, 50 percent of U.K. clients are planning a return to the stage in January 2021. Only 25 percent expect to be performing pantos in December 2020. Meanwhile Canadian clients’ return plans bridge British restraint and American buoyancy: Only 44 percent of clients expect to perform in autumn 2020, with a majority planning a return in January 2021.
“At TRG Arts, we are committed to listening to arts and cultural leaders, and helping them contextualize their local experiences with our global perspective,” said Jill Robinson, TRG’s CEO, in a statement. “I’m so encouraged that venues are focusing on when they will reopen, and we emphasize the importance of focusing also on with whom we will convene. The pause in performing now is an opportunity for leaders to recommit to their work in ensuring that equality, diversity, and inclusion are central to their reopening plans.”
The full study of “Arts and Culture 2020 Comeback” is available here.