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Live Performance Is Back. But Audiences Have Been Slow to Return.


Some arts leaders note the continuing apprehension amongst some potential ticket buyers about catching the coronavirus. “There are sizable pockets of individuals, and a few of those overlap with our core audience, who’re still wary about being in public spaces,” said Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater in Latest York.

The slower-than-expected return of office employees to city centers, where many entertainment venues are positioned, has not helped, either. “We don’t yet see everybody who we used to see coming to see a show after work,” said Aidan Connolly, the manager director of the Irish Arts Center, which presents music, dance and theater at a long-in-the-works Midtown Manhattan venue that finally opened in the course of the pandemic.

There are exceptions, though, showing that a hot property can still draw audiences.

Some Broadway revivals have done boffo business on the box office, including Neil Simon’s marital comedy “Plaza Suite,” which offered fans a rare opportunity to see the spouses Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick working together onstage; “The Music Man,” starring Jackman, an enormous draw; and “Into the Woods,” the Stephen Sondheim musical that’s playing to rhapsodic crowds. “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” the primary work by a Black composer to be presented by the Metropolitan Opera, played to sold-out houses as word of mouth spread.

And the concert industry, which attracts younger patrons than many other performing arts sectors, has been an actual vibrant spot. Live Nation, the worldwide concert giant, recently reported that it had sold 100 million tickets for the complete yr, greater than in 2019.

But scattered hits and crowded concert events can distract from the fact that, for many classical and theatrical institutions and shows, attendance is down, ticket prices are depressed, productions are fewer, and memberships or subscriptions have fallen. The initial post-shutdown optimism — bolstered by pent-up demand — was tempered by wave after wave of latest virus variants that raised health concerns and led to quite a few performer absences and performance cancellations.

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