May 21, 2024

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Live performance is back.  But the return of the masses was slow.

Live performance is back. But the return of the masses was slow.

Some arts leaders have noted continued concern among some potential ticket buyers about contracting the coronavirus. “There are large groups of people, some of those overlapping with our core audience, who are still worried about being in public,” said Oscar Eustice, artistic director of the New York Public Theater.

The return of office workers to city centers, where many entertainment venues are located, which came slower than expected, also did not help. “We don’t yet see everyone we used to see come to see a show after work,” said Aidan Connolly, executive director of the Irish Arts Centre, which has long been offering music, dance and theater. The Midtown Manhattan venue that finally opened is running amid the pandemic.

However, there are exceptions that show that the hot property can still attract the masses.

Some Broadway revivals have done impressive work at the box office, including Neil Simon’s comedy The Plaza Suite, which offered fans a rare opportunity to see married couple Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick working together on stage. “The Music Man” starring Jackman, huge draw; and “Into the Woods,” Stephen Sondheim’s musical that plays to spirited crowds. “Shut up the fire in my bones” The first work of a black composer to be performed by the Metropolitan Operaplayed for homes sold as word of mouth spreads.

And the concert industry, which attracts younger patrons than many other sectors of the performing arts, has been a real bright spot. Live Nation, the global concert giant, recently reported that it sold 100 million tickets for the entire year, more than in 2019.

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But sporadic visits and crowded concerts can distract from the fact that attendance, at most classical and theater establishments and shows, is dropping, ticket prices are low, productions are lower, and memberships or subscriptions are dropping. Initial post-lockdown optimism – buoyed by pent-up demand – tempered wave after wave of new viral variants that had raised health concerns and led to numerous absences and performance cancellations.