COVID-19 continues to impact DC-area live theater performances, survey finds

Almost three years after the first outbreak of COVID-19, a new survey of more than 2,700 people finds the virus is still having an impact on D.C.-area theaters with live performances.

According to a survey for the local theaters by Limelight Insights by Shugoll, a national marketing research, the average number of shows attended by a theater attendee dropped from pre-pandemic levels of more than seven a year in 2020 to fewer than five now, a dip of 35%. Sixty eight percent of respondents said concern over COVID-19 is the reason why.

Support for masks continues to be very high among patrons of the arts. According to the survey, 48% want mask-wearing to be mandatory. Thirty-one percent want it to be optional. Only 17% have not attended a performance because they do not want to wear a mask.

Here’s a look at how often people are going to performances. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy Limelight Insights by Shugoll)

“We’ve been tracking the attitudes and opinions of D.C.-area theatergoers through research and surveys since early in the pandemic and this survey represents another data set. At this particular point in time, it’s clear to me that as theatergoers return, they are still cautious about COVID-19 safety and would prefer mandatory mask-wearing when inside,” said Mark Shugoll, senior consultant of Limelight Insights by Shugoll.

Theater operators say the results of the survey are helping them establish COVID-19 protocols to keep patrons safe.

“The results of this survey have been shared with our partner organizations as they continue to make challenging decisions about COVID-19 safety policies in their theaters,” said Amy Austin, president & CEO of Theatre Washington.

“It’s no secret that DC-area theaters have struggled to rebound since reopening their doors in fall 2021, and face some very difficult decision-making ahead. I feel confident that theater leadership has the best interest of their audiences, artists, staff and volunteers at the core of their policy decisions, and Theatre Washington will continue to support them through this period. In keeping with guidance from the CDC, Theatre Washington highly encourages the use of masks inside indoor theater spaces.”

The online survey of subscribers and single ticket buyers at 10 D.C.-area theaters involved a total of 2,755 people and was conducted between Oct. 19 and Oct. 21. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2%.

Dan Ronan

Weekend anchor Dan Ronan is an award-winning journalist with a specialty in business and finance reporting.

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