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An outdoor performance at the Edith Oliver Theatre at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. (Photo by Isaak Berliner)

New Study: Arts Orgs to Stagger Return Plans, Try Alternative Venues

Compared to TRG Arts’ last study, U.S. companies are pushing back plans by an average of almost 4 more months.

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.: TRG Arts has released a new study revealing that the majority of North American performing arts organizations are pushing a return to in-person performances to the fall. This study is the most recent in a series of studies from TRG Arts looking at the plans of arts and culture organizations since the pandemic began. United States organizations, the new study shows, are pushing their return to business back by an average of 3.8 additional months, compared to TRG’s September 2020 comeback study, with only 42 percent of U.S. organizations anticipating performing in their primary venues before July.

“The January comeback study shows there is light at the end of the tunnel, sooner in some regions and venues than others, but light nonetheless,” said TRG CEO Jill Robinson in a statement. “The strategic planning, critical thinking, and alternative programming that performing arts organizations have undertaken show remarkable professionalism and creativity that will enable them to continue the vital work they do in supporting the soul of their communities as well as the broader economy.”

The study surveyed 104 organizations, including 91 in the United States and 13 in Canada, from Dec. 12, 2020 through Jan. 12, 2021. The study found that, among U.S. organizations, companies in the Southeast, Southwest, and South are the most optimistic, with a majority planning a return before July. Companies in the Midwest, West, and Northeast mostly plan returns in the third and fourth quarters of 2021, with just 3 percent of Midwest and 5 percent of Northeast orgs anticipating a 2022 return.

But these returns to performance don’t look the same everywhere. The study shows that 47 percent of respondents said they plan to offer performances in outdoor or alternative venues to their primary performance spaces in 2021, with 67 percent of those organizations planning to perform in these alternative venues prior to returning to in-person productions in their primary indoor venues. Twenty-one percent plan to continue using alternative spaces even after returning to their primary venue.

Additionally, the survey notes that the role of digital content distribution has been more as a relational bridge to audiences than as a revenue generator, with the top reason given by organizations offering paid digital programming being an effort to remain tethered to their subscribers.

More information, as well as the full study, is available on TRG’s website.

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