When will audiences return? Amid talk of restrictions easing and gatherings of more than two people allowed, it may be some time before audiences are willing to reengage with arts organisations in real life, particularly when it comes to visiting live venues with large crowds.
A recent sports poll at Seton Hall University gives us some indication of audience reluctance post COVID-19. Although this is from a different sector and context, it poses an ongoing challenge for performing arts venues around audience confidence and when people will feel safe enough to return.
According to the poll, 72 percent of respondents said they would not attend games before the development of a vaccine, with 12 percent saying they would if social distancing could be maintained.
This number dropped to 61% among sports fans.
The implications are concerning for all live entertainment. The initial three-month period that saw events postponed is now coming to a close, but still there’s no view to when it will be safe to set new dates. While restrictions have eased in some States and Territories, the current anxiety and fear experienced by individuals and families may have audiences remaining at home even after social distancing measures are considered safe to remove.
The Seton Hall University poll suggests that the development of a vaccine is a timeline that implies audience confidence returning.
Experts indicate a vaccine won’t be developed for 12-18 months. If this is what keeps audiences away even as restrictions are lifted, we may need longer term strategies and support efforts that build confidence and safety. Not to mention our own national poll to determine when audiences may feel ready to return.
The results of the Seton Hall poll may also change over time if confidence in flattening the curve grows. It is likely that results in any poll on COVID-19 and audience reluctance would be impacted in general by the overall level of public confidence in leadership.
In Australia, there has already been a reported increase in Australians who feel the government is handling COVID-19 well – up 22% according to a recent survey published by Roy Morgan.