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May 23 - Executive Briefing with Alan Brown "What’s with the slow-motion Omicron subvariant Surge?"

Update for May 23, 2022: As the current subvariant surge moves across the U.S. in slow motion, Alan’s May 23 briefing takes stock of shifts in audience sentiment about returning to cultural events. Will we see continued backsliding on key indicators of demand, or has resolve to go out strengthened? What if slower paced, seasonal surges are the new norm? This update also examines movement in feelings about masking requirements, and a marked shift in the reasons why people say they aren’t returning to live programs. (30 minutes)

Key Takeaways

  • The post-Omicron recovery halted in April and reversed a bit in May – we are on a downward track right now, but not nearly as dramatic a decline as with previous surges.

  • Most indicators of readiness to return regressed between April and May, although this “surge” doesn’t look anything like Delta or Omicron; it could last for months.

    • The percentage of people who are going out hasn’t diminished.

    • The people who are staying home are even more worried than before, and keep delaying their return.

  • Orchestras and theatres are still looking at 65% to 70% of a reactivated customer base, while PACs are still looking at 75% to 80% of a reactivated customer base, on average (no change).

  • Support for mask mandates increased between April and May; patrons are divided as to whether they’d attend events where masks are optional.

  • Only half of non-returners cite health concerns as a reason for not returning.

  • Most likely we are looking at diminished demand levels for indoor events into the fall, due in part to uncertainty as to what the Covid situation will be then.

    • On the positive side, many people have enhanced levels of immunity.

    • If Covid-19 has become endemic, as Dr. Fauci asserts, then maybe these slow, rolling surges are the new normal.

    • If so, the last 15% to 20% of the market base will be difficult to assimilate into the new landscape of risk, because infection rates may never go down as far as they’d like.

  • Arts organizations should offer a limited number of “enhanced safety” performances, if they can.


Executive Briefing May 23, 2022
Download PDF • 2.01MB


Several questions were asked during the session. Alan Kline has provided responses:

I wish the restaurant dining and theater performances distinguished between indoor and outdoor ... Especially for those theatrical/musical performances .... -Sarah

  • Alan K: The chart we were looking at didn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor performances, but we do have another question that does. Unsurprisingly, people are more comfortable outdoors. In May 14% of theatre audiences would attend a performance without any health safety protocols, while 39% of audiences would attend outdoor performances without health safety protocols.

Of course this data is centered on audiences, but do you have any data about what protocols and policies organizations are implementing for their performers? I feel like right now the biggest wild card is protecting artists throughout the rehearsal/performance process - Abby Lass

  • Alan K: That’s a great question Abby, but since this study is of audiences we don’t have data from organizations on what they’re doing during rehearsals and backstage. Anecdotally, we are hearing from our cohorts that a lot of that is being driven by union agreements or presenter requirements. As so many organizations have to follow those guidelines, I anticipate any sector-wide movement going forward will be once those requirements change.

Any idea from your cohorts, how many performances or programs they have canceled in the last 30 - 90 days due to COVID? We are hearing anecdotally that some audience members are tired of the on again/off again reality. Though we have no real data. = Deb Polich

  • Alan K: Deb, while our study doesn’t ask questions of organizations, we are also hearing that from both organizations and audiences. In our qualitative research we’ve seen a number of audience members mention that planning is more difficult because there is an increased likelihood events will be canceled. Even if the organization in question hasn’t canceled a performance or program, there is much more awareness of that possibility which can lead to later ticket purchases or non-attendance.

Greetings from the SF Bay Area! I missed this: what was the sample size of the stats?Thanks! - Amy Leung

  • Alan K: Greetings Amy! The sample changes month to month and not everyone answers every question, but our charts show the number of responses we’re looking at as the “n-value” at the bottom of each column. For total respondents in May, we had 6074 in the PAC aggregate, 3494 in the orchestra aggregate, and 2043 in the theatre aggregate.

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