The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the global theater industry to a standstill. However, 2020 is not the first time that the industry has faced an existential crisis. The theater community was confronted with acts of terrorism such as September 11th or the London Blitz that sparked cultural activity. disruptive technologies that changed consumer behavior, such as movies and television; and even previous pandemics dating back to Shakespeare, including AIDS, which devastated a generation of artists.
In any case, the industry has mourned, innovated and emerged stronger. Make no mistake: global theater is hurting right now, and its darkest days are yet to come. However, the challenges this year and the pivotal points and adjustments that come with it allow us to conclude what may be around the corner.
Broadway performers at a rally in support of the New York entertainment industry following the September 28, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. David Lefranc – Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Here are five predictions:
Broadway programming will shift his focus
According to the Broadway League, the trade organization that represents theater owners and producers, for the last full season Broadway audiences were 35% local residents and 65% tourists. According to the league's estimates, Broadway will not fully recapture its tourist audience until sometime in 2025. Hence, Broadway needs to develop and produce content that is more tailored to the 35% of viewers who are from New York City and its suburbs, and less reliant on international tourists (19%) and local tourists (46%), who made up most of the pre-pandemic audience.
This likely means shutting down some tourist-friendly, long-running musical productions that may have exhausted their dreary audiences in favor of recently opened musicals, star vehicle pieces, and special limited edition and concert events. Manufacturers will also try to reduce their cost structure, which currently requires near-capacity ticket sales in order to generate profit. Expect tight budgets that lead to smaller businesses and production scales. London's West End, the other traditional global mecca for theater tourism, is most likely to see similar changes.
There will be viable alternatives to New York and London
Where do theater fans go to solve their problems until they can safely return to New York and London? You will seek and find high quality professional productions that are closer to home.
Expect the existing circuits of not-for-profit regional theaters in the US and subsidized theaters in the UK to lead the recovery. Since ticket sales only make up part of their annual budget, these theaters can survive lower capacities and still thrive. Once audiences experience the high quality professional theater it produces, those audiences are more likely to become permanent. In terms of recreation, the regional will be followed by the US and UK commercial touring routes, bringing productions from city to city and presented by local venues, often with large subscriber bases.
Theater tourists from outside the US and the UK will also look closer to home. Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan, and even emerging theatrical powerhouses like China are becoming global versions of regional theater, and audiences who have previously traveled to London or New York will travel shorter distances to see what is likely to increase in quality and quality Amount of top theater.
The "creative class" is migrated
During the pandemic, many actors, directors, writers, and other urban cultural centers have cleared for places that are more spacious and affordable. During their absence, they learned how to work better and collaborate remotely. from submitting video auditions to development or pre-production via Zoom.
In the new reality, many creatives will find that they can keep working this way without negatively affecting their careers. Producers and casting directors can no longer expect creatives to live in the most expensive cities when they can easily walk in for it. If the geographic shift in theater work mentioned in my previous prediction turns out to be true, artists will tend to migrate where the work is, moving towards cities with thriving theater scenes and lower cost of living (I see you, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Cleveland).
Theater content is increasingly being displayed on large and small screens
With the recent successes of Hamilton on Disney +, American Utopia on HBO Max, and What the Constitution Means to Me on Amazon Prime, a business model has now established itself for streaming theater productions currently or recently running.
With streaming platforms ever to be programmed and producers increasingly required to reduce risk and maximize revenue, you have a balance of interests that cannot be denied. It is true that the contractual standards with authors must be revised in order to show live theater productions that are still on stage. However, the presence of a clear mutual benefit should help the idea take off.
David Lee – HBO
At the same time, the cinemas have experienced their own glitches. While the exclusive "theater window" for theatrical exhibition has been tightening for years, the recent announcement from Warner Bros. that Wonder Woman will debut Christmas Day in both theaters in 1984 and simultaneously on its sibling platform HBO Max could prove the end of the practice altogether . Cinema remains the preferred choice for "event viewing" – those viewing experiences that are enhanced by sharing. As production is likely to decrease from studios dedicated to theaters, opportunities may arise for other theatrical content that is both filmed and streamed live.
Imagine a mix of programming with a cinema multiplex showing the latest Marvel superhero film, the NCAA basketball tournament, a new season of a Netflix series, and the live stream of a Broadway or West End production at all times. These local viewing opportunities could even increase the overall audience for global theater. It would make its product available to those who may have previously been banned from the theater, whether for economic reasons (the average ticket price for Broadway is $ 145, according to the Broadway League) or geographical (the best-known productions focus primarily on New York or London) or linguistically (these productions are performed almost exclusively in English).
To runers ’ Unions will consolidate
It was not until 2012 that the blurring of jurisdiction between film and television led to the merger of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (AFTRA). The pandemic has resulted in a similar blurring of jurisdiction between the Actors' Equity Association (AEA) and SAG / AFTRA when it comes to filmed and live streamed theater.
The two unions were involved in litigation throughout the summer, and both unions awarded contracts for live streams and / or cinemas. A temporary compromise was made, but the reality is that if filming and live streaming of theater becomes the norm, any production will have to hire its performers under contract to two unions. Since many AEA members also belong to SAG / AFTRA and vice versa, a merger of these two unions seems very plausible, even if it is not imminent.
While no one can predict the future, it is undeniable that the best way to ensure that theater has a bright future is for governments around the world to recognize that the sector has been hardest hit by the pandemic and is among the last belong will fully recover. In the US, this should mean passing another round of small business relief. Ensure the Save Our Stages Act, which aims to protect independent performing arts venues, is included in the next stimulus package; and most importantly, to provide health and economic benefits to freelance artists.
When artists get the support they need, the world just has to sit back and watch the global theater do what it has been doing for centuries. grieve, innovate and step forward more than ever.
Michael Barra is the CEO of Lively McCabe Entertainment, a global media rights and live stage production packaging company.
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