NEW YORK CITY: AudienceView and TheaterMania, an AudienceView consumer brand, have released a new COVID-19 impact report in which over 3,300 members of their online community were surveyed to better understand how the ongoing pandemic is impacting their behavior and consumption of performing arts. The report looks at safety protocols, timelines to return to theatres, near-term spending intent, and pay for virtual events, among other areas.
The survey, which was carried out between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8, 2020, was weighted to frequent theatregoers—while 94 percent of the respondents went to the theatre at least two times per year before the pandemic, 62.9 percent said they went to the theatre “every chance” they could. The age breakdown of the survey also skewed heavily toward older audience members, with 69.5 percent being above the age of 60 and a total of 94.4 percent being 40 or older.
How popular have virtual events been? The report indicates that streaming content has been “overwhelmingly” enjoyed by those surveyed. Over 77 percent have watched online streaming content since the pandemic closures began, with less than 3 percent saying they did not enjoy watching these virtual events; 58.7 percent said they enjoyed the events, while 38.9 percent answered “somewhat.” In an increase from an AudienceView survey conducted in May 2020, 64.5 percent of those surveyed said they had paid for virtual events, up from 26.4 percent in the early months of the shutdown.
Looking at health and safety, 70.5 percent of those surveyed said that widespread vaccination is the most important element that will make them feel comfortable returning to the theatre. Mandatory mask wearing came in second, with an overwhelming 93.5 percent of respondents indicating they would not be comfortable attending an event that doesn’t require attendees to wear masks. The report also mentions that a mandatory mask policy isn’t enough by itself; patrons want these policies to be strictly enforced, including removing offenders from the venue.
The report also indicates that measures like additional testing and temperature checks were not viewed as highly as other safety measures, due to the prevelance of asymptomatic carriers and false-negative tests. Theatres would do well to tout their safety protocols and cleaning procedures online and on social media, as 77.1 percent of those surveyed indicated that this level of communication is important to them.
Unsurprisingly, only 1.5 percent of those surveyed said they would feel safe attending indoor events under current conditions. And while 36.1 percent said they’d feel safe right now going to an outdoor event, 36.3 percent said they wouldn’t feel safe at either. The expected timeline for a return to indoor theatre is still fluid, but nearly 70 percent of respondents indicated they’d be comfortable attending indoor theatre productions as soon as June of this year—assuming that’s allowed by state and local governments and safety protocols are in place, of course. Just over 29 percent said they wouldn’t be comfortable until 2022.
Significantly, the AudienceView survey indicates that 78.1 percent of theatregoers said they would be willing to pay more for tickets to help offset lost revenue due to social distancing and capacity restrictions, with the majority feeling comfortable with ticket prices that are 10 to 25 percent higher. Looking ahead, only 13.3 percent of those surveyed said they are purchasing tickets now for live events in the future, with more flexible refund policies being a key factor in people booking tickets in advance. That said, 78.6 percent said they plan on paying for virtual events or streaming content over the next six months.
For more information, including to download the full impact report, visit the AudienceView website.
Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. This Giving Season, please join us in this mission by making a donation to our publisher, Theatre Communications Group. When you support American Theatre magazine and TCG, you support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism. Click here to make your fully tax-deductible donation today!