Arts and Culture Planning 2020 Comeback

June 18, 2020
TRG Arts by TRG Arts

A study of 74 TRG Arts clients across three countries reveals optimism for an autumn return to performances in their primary performance spaces after shutdowns caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The study was conducted on June 8, 2020, and represents organizations’ current scenario plans for returning to performance. “Plan A” and “Plan B” scenarios for return to performance in-venue were studied. Responses reflect clients across all disciplines of arts and culture in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The study does not contemplate how client organizations will operationalize performances. Indeed, a mix of socially distanced live performance, open-air live performances, live streamed performances, and recorded delivery options are all being contemplated by clients, some of these occurring before the return dates noted in this study. TRG has learned the delivery method and specifics for returning to performance are highly variable, and rely on national and local guidance.

Returns Expected in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021

54% of all organizations in the study report their “Plan A” for reopening will occur between August and December 2020, with one-third planning a traditional September season start. Of those planning a return in 2020, only 19% plan to wait until December to perform.

50% of clients do not have a solidified “Plan B”; most are approaching secondary scenario planning from the perspective of delaying opening decisions month by month. “If it’s not Month A, then it’s Month A+1” is a frequent client sentiment. Of those clients who do have an articulated “Plan B” fully half plan to perform in Q1 of 2021.

Image: “Plan A” Opening Plans – All clients, all regions

Caution in the U.K., Optimism in North America

If already not performing, as is Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland, 50% of U.K. clients are planning a return to the stage in January 2021. Only 25% expect to be performing pantos in December 2020.

In contrast, 63% of U.S. clients expect to return to performances in 2020. Dance and multi-disciplinary organizations are the most optimistic; dance’s optimism is likely fueled by the requirement of Nutcracker revenues to bring stability to the balance of the 2020-21 season.

US Client Genre % Return In 2020
Multi-Genre/PACs 100%
Dance 86%
Orchestra 57%
Presenter 57%
Opera 50%
Theater 50%
Table: U.S. client return expectations in 2020, by genre

Canadian clients’ return plans bridge British restraint and American buoyancy. Only 44% of clients expect to perform in autumn 2020, with a majority planning a return in January 2021.

Coastal Clients More Optimistic in U.S.

Perhaps the most surprising finding in the study is that U.S. coastal regions, hardest and earliest impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting shutdowns, are also the most optimistic for an autumn return. Midwestern clients are the least optimistic, a majority of which are planning for a January 2021 return.

US Client Region % Return In 2020
South 100%
Southeast 75%
Northeast 71%
West 55%
Midwest 38%
Table: U.S. client return expectations in 2020, by region

Ongoing Evaluation

TRG Arts is continually studying the impact of COVID-19 on the resiliency of the arts and culture field, and has made several resources free and available to all.

TRG 30 is a weekly 30-minute collection of provocative conversations with leaders in the field of arts and culture as well as adjacent industries; its goal is to inspire arts leaders to evolve institutions to become more resilient upon their return to “normal” operations.

Sign-up is free

COVID-19 International Sector Benchmark studies live transactional data from across the globe. It allows participants to compare their patron purchase trends to geographic-specific benchmarks and is intended to be used for arts advocacy and planning. Participating organizations can learn how their recovery compares to other similar organizations.

Participation is free
Download a PDF of the Report Download the Press Release