Success stories to inspire your entertainment venue reopening
The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd; live entertainment often lives and dies in physical venues. But when the audience has to stay home, how can the show go on? This is the question that thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses in the entertainment industry have been asking themselves over the past few months of coronavirus lockdown.
Lots of entertainment venues are meeting the sheer impossibility of imposing social distancing regulations, and there is a significant and understandable fear for the future of the industry. But at the same time, independent venues are innovating and collaborating like never before to support each other and continue entertaining their audiences.
Open up your mind
Despite the lockdown putting a firm stop to public gatherings, some entertainment venues have opened up new avenues to continue serving their customers. Small and independent movie theatres, free from the inflexible revenue model of big chains, are the ones leading innovation in quarantine entertainment. The Belcourt Theatre in Nashville is emphasizing the value of the personal touch with its virtual cinema initiatives. Moviegoers can tune into midnight film streams with staff commentary over Twitch, or pay for a curated watchlist based on their favorite movies and genres.
While some movie venues are embracing new technology, others are going old school. Drive-in movies have come back in style due to coronavirus, a classic solution to a novel problem. The Plaza Theatre has set up drive-ins in two parking lots in Atlanta, Georgia, and charges entry on a sliding scale depending on the occupancy of your car. The movie is then projected onto an inflatable screen and the sound beamed into each vehicle over FM radio.
Fight for your right to party
Even with these inventive solutions to coronavirus restrictions, entertainment venues are feeling the pinch. Many states are instituting strict venue capacity limits, like those from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CPDHE), that limit smaller indoor venues to a maximum of 50 people. For businesses that depend on filling seats, it’s just not possible to follow the guidelines and turn a profit.
But independent concert venues aren’t going down without a fight. First Avenue is a longstanding cultural touchstone in Minneapolis and one of the thousands of independent music venues at risk of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown. The venue is pursuing crowdfunding solutions, but owner Dayna Frank says that’s not enough. That’s why Frank helped set up the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA), an advocacy group representing 2000 live music venues across all 50 states, currently lobbying the federal government to keep them afloat with stimulus packages. As Frank says, “We have to have meaningful support. There’s no plan B.”
Back to the future
For those venues that can open, the future of the entertainment business is looking very different from a few months ago. Arena Cinelounge Sunset, the first movie theatre to reopen in Los Angeles, is doing everything they can to provide the service their customers expect while following strict public health guidelines. What that means in practice is a new air purification system, capped attendance and regular seat sanitizing. Owner Christina Meoli has even found a way to continue serving concessions: popcorn specially packaged for no contact delivery.
Only time will tell whether entertainment businesses can sustain themselves with these new restrictions. One thing is for sure—small and independent venues are the best positioned of all to try out new and creative solutions to this unprecedented situation.
About the AuthorMore Content by Joe Mackenzie