New Jersey boasts a rich landscape of live theater venues – from prominent regional houses to small community theaters. All were shut down during the worst of the pandemic, with sometimes devastating effects. But the Garden State theater community is coming back to life as more residents get vaccinated and COVID-19 outbreaks seem to be waning. Are audiences willing to return to the seats?
NJBIZ recently spoke with John McEwen, the executive director of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, and Dr. Stuart Weiss, the founder of Intelligent Crowd Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in business continuity and crisis management for event production companies. Both have been working to help theaters reopen safely and persuade the public that they can begin enjoying comedies, dramas and musicals once again. The centerpiece of those efforts is the Opening Night, Opening Right campaign, that includes a video series and a pledge that both venues and theatergoers sign vowing to adhered to COVID-19 safety protocols. The work may be paying off, albeit slowly.
“Subscribers are definitely coming back,” McEwen said. “Single ticket sales are moving. It’s definitely at a slower pace than it was at this time, pre-pandemic. Our theaters are optimistic, but they’re certainly prepared that it will be slow.”
Weiss said that given the current trajectory of the pandemic, theater operators can be optimistic. “I think now is the time to move forward cautiously, following the science and allow us to get back to a more normal way of life,” he said. “And I’m seeing that across not only theaters, but a lot of movie and TV productions and TV networks.”