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COVID-19 Updates

November 2, 20202 November 2020

Arts attendance and COVID-19

Colleen Dilenschneider

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Based largely on “the largest ongoing survey of perceptions and behaviors surrounding cultural organizations in the U.S. and data from 224 cultural organizations” (reaching 151,000 respondents), research posts on this website track key issues related to Americans’ arts attendance during the pandemic.

An August post examines the question “If museums and performing arts entities were all reopened and did not need to limit capacity, what level of attendance could they expect to achieve throughout the rest of 2020?” Separate statistical models were constructed for “exhibit-based and performance-based cultural entities”, with an index value of 100 representing actual in-person attendance levels in 2019. For performance-based organizations, the statistical models estimated a 2020 index value of 23. This means that, even in a best-case scenario of not having to limit capacity due to coronavirus safety protocols, performing organizations would have a best-case scenario loss of 77% of 2019 attendance numbers. Performing organizations would have potential attendance levels of 65 in 2021 and 89 in 2022, meaning that the market capacity for performing organizations would be 35% lower in 2021 and 11% lower in 2022 than in 2019.

For exhibit-based organizations (“such as museums, historic sites, aquariums, zoos, botanic gardens, and science centers”), the 2020 index estimate is 37, representing a best-case scenario loss of 63% of exhibiting organizations’ 2019 attendance numbers. Exhibiting organizations would have a potential attendance level of 78 in 2021, before nearly returning to their 2019 attendance levels in 2022 (index value of 98).

Related data in the same post highlight the fact that, “as coronavirus cases in the United States continue to rise, we’re predictably observing low intentions to visit cultural entities in the immediate near term”.

Another recent post, “What Makes Members and Subscribers Feel Safe?”, compares the views of “857 members and/or subscribers to cultural organizations and 3,498 non-members/non-subscribers in the United States”. Mandatory face coverings are the top safety consideration among both groups (selected by 72% of members/subscribers and 69% of non-members/non-subscribers). Members/subscribers are more likely than non-members/non-subscribers to look for the availability of a vaccine (59% vs. 53%). The ability to attend outdoors is important for both groups (selected by 57% of members/subscribers and 59% of non-members/non-subscribers). “Seeing others visit” is less important for members/subscribers than non-members/non-subscribers (55% vs. 60%).

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