Arts, Coronavirus

Blank Foundation Survey Looks At Audiences’ Comfort Levels Returning To Theaters, Cultural Venues

The Fox Theatre, along with other venues around Atlanta and across the country, had to change schedules and postpone or cancel shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fox Theatre, along with other venues around Atlanta and across the country, had to change schedules and postpone or cancel shows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit wikimedia commons

Six months have now passed since the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed our lives. For performing artists and cultural organizations, the end of public gatherings has been devastating.

For those who love to attend live performances of all kinds, questions about safety loom large.

Alan Brown, principal of WolfBrown and Audience Outlook Monitor, joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about a recent survey conducted for the Blank Family Foundation.

Alan Brown spearheaded the survey for the Blank Family Foundation.
Alan Brown spearheaded the survey for the Blank Family Foundation.

As part of the Blank Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable, they facilitated the participation of 20-plus local arts organizations in an international survey of audience attitudes in response to COVID-19.

The survey looked at audience comfort levels of returning to theaters and venues, what kind of virtual or in-person programs resonate with audiences and at what capacity will audiences maintain financial and loyal support during athis time.

“There’s quite a diversity of feelings right now. Many people are very, very cautious, of course, despite the fact that they desperately want to go out again,” Brown said.

The first survey deployment in May resulted in 4,106 responses collected by 21 organizations in Georgia.

The survey found:

In Georgia, comfort levels are highest at museums or galleries where 64% of respondents report they would be somewhat or very comfortable walking around. We presume audiences feel more confident in being able to maintain distancing in these spaces. However, only 16% reported that they would be somewhat or very comfortable using hands-on exhibits at an interactive museum.

In an interview last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks it will be a year from the time there is a vaccine before people can go to theaters without masks and distancing.

That statement was unsettling for many organizations as to what steps to take next.

The survey also stated that 59% of respondents said “they would be somewhat or very comfortable at an outdoor festival or concert.”

Organizations like the Atlanta Opera, are changing their venues to accommodate this by hosting their events under a big circus-styled tent this fall.

A survey was also given in June, July and August. Results from the August survey are still pending.

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