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Audiences reluctant to return – poll

Despite pent-up demand only 13 per cent of theatre fans would visit a theatre live performance if invited today, a major survey in July found.

The survey was taken when there was little hope of an early return to live theatre, but has only recently been published.. How numbers would change now limited attendance has become possible, and some shows have taken place, is a question for a new. more up-to-date survey.

But in July, audiences were worried both about safety measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection and about fellow guests’ behaviour, the Society of London Theatre and Theatre UK found.

Many theatregoers were worried that other audience members will be lax about wearing masks and other preventative measures.

The research – carried out in the height of the pandemic  among theatre members in 100 venues around the UK – found only 13 per cent of respondents would return to a theatre immediately, and only 18 per cent would return with a relaxation of government restrictions.

There remains pent-up demand for live theatre – 93 per cent wanted to return to arts events – but over half of respondents said they would wait until potential danger from coronavirus was greatly diminished and 15 per cent wanted Covid-19 to be under full control.

Six out of 10 respondents were worried about fellow audience members putting them in danger by not fully complying with coronavirus safety measures and keeping social distance. Around 20 per cent were worried they wouldn’t be able to get a refund or exchange, or that a venue wouldn’t have sufficient safety measures in place. 

Only 12 per cent said government advice about it being safe to return would be a major factor would help their decision, and that limited numbers and social distancing would be the biggest influence on their decision to return.

Since the survey was taken, theatres that have announced seasons have generally seen a very strong response - suggesting the fears of July have been at least partially alleviated by special distancing and sanitation policies and audience rules.


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