In the post-pandemic era, Philadelphia’s cultural districts often look like the good old days. Streets and sidewalks are criss-crossed with art-goers who enliven the city’s parking lots, restaurants, theaters and bars.
Other nights: crickets.
Attendance at the Franklin Institute is back to pre-pandemic levels, but staffing is still half what it was before.
At Taller Puertorriqueño, 80 elementary and middle school students participated in an after-school program that helped with arts and homework, but now only about 20 come.
The Perelman Annex at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was closed during the pandemic and is not open to the public. This fall, the Philadelphia Orchestra capped ticket prices for some performances at $49 (one-third his normal top ticket price), and even with some halls half full. bottom.
Art leaders are unsure of what the new normal will look like after the pandemic has reduced attendance. Especially now that federal emergency COVID-19 funding for arts organizations has ended, ticket revenue becomes more important.
One widely held concern is that the pandemic has forever changed what it takes to get people out of their homes.
“People are really happy with yoga pants and Netflix,” says Amy L. Murphy, managing director of the Old City’s Arden Theater Company.
Patricia Wilson Aden, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, said: “We believe audience behavior, especially in large, close-knit gatherings, will continue to be affected.” [with lower turnout]”
Broadly speaking, it was a tougher fall for the performing arts, where audiences are confined to their seats, than for visual arts, where the risk of infection is calculated and where you can move freely while keeping your distance. Attendance reached 84% for fiscal 2019. The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Matisse exhibition, which closed on January 29, exceeded expectations, attracting 135,000 people. I saw it at the museum’s Impressionist exhibition in 2015,” said Jessica Sharp, the museum’s deputy director of visitor experience.
BIGGER NAMES, BETTER ATTENDANCE
Attendance for many groups recovered around the holidays, but Matisse’s success also highlights the significant post-pandemic changes many groups are seeing.
“Them [events] Larry Dubinsky, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute, said:
In dance there is no better name nutcrackerand the December production of the Philadelphia Ballet’s Tchaikovsky/Balanchine production surpassed pre-pandemic numbers, filling the Academy of Music to nearly 80% capacity and selling a solid $3 million in tickets. (2019 sales totaled $2.64 million).
Another change: Many art patrons seem less likely to commit to attending in advance.
“In 2018-19, we watched for a couple of weeks and predicted what kind of visitors we would have based on advance ticket sales,” said R. Scott, president and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution. Stevenson says. “Now people are making that decision on the day or the day before.”
The Franklin Institute had 28,000 members before the pandemic (March 2020). In June 2021, he dropped to 8,000 during the pandemic and today he’s only recovered to 18,000.
“I think there is still uncertainty in people’s minds,” says Dubinski.
One of the factors driving down attendance may be fewer people working downtown, and fewer people traveling directly from work to the show. “There still seems to be a tug-of-war going on as to where to work. I think leisure and entertainment are still in flux,” said Al of West Philadelphia, executive director of Bustan Seeds of Culture. Me says.
Ticket price cuts have long been a reliable strategy for some arts organizations, but they may no longer be so helpful. Arden has traditionally offered promotional and institutional discounts to students and certain communities.
“But people seem to be behavior-oriented rather than price-oriented,” says Murphy. “One of the things we’re noticing, he said, is that people tend to go out with friends more than couples. They talk to each other and leave the house.”
It will be months before the art community can get a comprehensive snapshot of trends, attitudes and behaviors. The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is currently investigating arts and culture groups and hopes to release a new report on how they live by late spring or early summer.
Many factors could be involved in deriving the impact of the pandemic on attendance rates.
By distributing performances digitally, some arts groups may be underperforming potential in-person attendance and ticket revenue. , foster relationships with donors who are unable or unwilling to visit the concert hall.
Streaming improves in some cases. It could be bigger than the loss in ticket sales. About a year after the pandemic, a couple in California who were watching his concerts streamed by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society began sending a string of gifts. These gifts currently total $35,000. Importantly, the donor is unknown to her PCMS or out of town. This is a rare example of a group expanding its philanthropic pie beyond regular donors.
Another factor in the art’s slow recovery is the negative perception some patrons have of the city, given the confluence of the pandemic and rising crime. For some people, these fears and interactions with homeless people make it difficult for them to go to art events.
Roger Hedspeth has been with the Philadelphia Orchestra for eight years and is currently debating whether to renew his orchestral concert package. He and his wife say beggars followed them over a block as they were on their way from Patko’s Locust Street station to the orchestra’s recent Yujawan. On the way home, a group of homeless people blocked the entrance to the turnstile from the concourse of Patco Station until someone could help them. guide them.
“It’s like, is it worth the trouble?” said Hedospeth. “I can always stream his Berlin Philharmonic on my excellent TV and sound system at home. start.
Some art leaders believe that a single positive, large-scale event in a city could be the catalyst for a complete restoration of the city’s activity and its image.
The Eagles’ championship parade may have done just that. More people having fun on the streets and sending messages to others could spur a positive feedback loop. At present, the path for arts organizations to make patrons return to the habit of attending is less certain.
Dubinsky of the Franklin Institute said:
“If you can get someone back without fear of getting COVID and not fear of some kind of crime happening, they will enjoy it again and boom. I will return to art and culture.”