Signals for Optimism in the U.K. While U.S. Revenues Continue to Slide
Revival in philanthropic revenue in both nations, but numbers of gifts down compared to November 2019
As featured in:The Stage | WhatsOnStage | Musical America | Broadway World
In November 2020 performing arts organizations in the United States witnessed their worst month yet for ticket sales since the outbreak of COVID-19. Compared to November 2019, ticket revenues fell 96.3%. In the United Kingdom, comparative sales were down 84.6%. This was a marked improvement over October 2020 (down 90.1%) and the best performance for comparative sales since March 2020.
These monthly advance sales figures come from the COVID-19 Sector Benchmark, an initiative led by international arts management consultants TRG Arts and U.K. arts data specialists Purple Seven. It captures near real-time data from box office feeds of both commercial and not-for-profit venues of all scales in the U.S. and the U.K. These sales figures have been gathered from 307 arts venues (79 in the U.S. and 228 in the U.K). The majority of the sample are theaters, but there is also a representation of arts centers and orchestras.
“It is no surprise that the U.K. is witnessing its best month for ticket sales since March 2020 while the U.S. is seeing its worst. U.K. aggregate sales of 15% compared to November 2019 is hardly a recovery, but the trend is in the right direction. Significant government support in the U.K. is allowing organizations to take risks and program socially distanced events that would not otherwise be economically viable.
More significant government support in the U.S. is required and without it many performing arts organizations will take far longer to recover and thrive, if they survive. Hopefully the new administration will be more willing to acknowledge the critical economic and societal roles of arts and culture in our lives.”
The Benchmark also captures data on philanthropy from a smaller sample of not-for-profit venues. The October COVID-19 Sector Benchmark Insight Report revealed worrying trends in the diminishing number and size of gifts being given in both the U.S. and the U.K. Figures for gift revenue in November 2020 are more encouraging, with income almost matching November 2019 in the U.S. and exceeding what was achieved the previous year by 52% in the U.K.
In both nations the revival in philanthropy has relied on a smaller number of givers giving on average more. Numbers of givers were down 31% in the U.S. and 13% in the U.K. in November 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Leaders of cultural organizations in the U.K. have just had a particularly challenging few weeks in a year like no other. While uncertainty remains in so many places as to whether the Christmas show will or won’t go on, activity planned thanks to the U.K.’s Culture Recovery Fund and the National Lottery’s Pantomime program is clearly demonstrating pent up demand and that for so many people Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a trip to their local theater.”
David Brownlee, Managing Director, Purple Seven
TRG Arts and Purple Seven will publish further studies on a monthly basis while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the arts and culture sector. Previous Insight Reports available are:
- October 2020: Who is Giving?
- September 2020: COVID-19 and the Performing Arts – Six Months After Closure
- August 2020: Who is booking now? Changes in ticket buyer demographics post COVID-19
- June 2020: Individual Donations – Is New Philanthropic Income Replacing Lost Ticket Income?
- May 2020: Tracking the Initial Impact of COVID-19 on the Performing Arts in the U.K. and North America
About the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard
Purple Seven and TRG Arts continue to offer free access to the free COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard to organizations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Register here.
Expansion of the COVID-19 Benchmark Dashboard is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to SMU DataArts, a national center for arts research and TRG Arts’ long-time partner in advancing the arts and culture sector.
Monthly Advance Ticket Sales and Gifts, 2020 v 2019
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