This snapshot report updates key findings using the February 2021 deployments of the Audience Outlook Monitor (AOM) in the United States, a study that is tracking how audiences feel about attending arts and culture events in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study includes analysis of shifting demand for live events and comfort in venues, perspectives on vaccination and resuming attendance, and experience with digital content.
This report reflects data collected by all participants in the AOM study, as indicated in the following pages.
do not expect to return before September 2021
say that social distancing will be important upon return to arts and cultural venues
have encountered difficulties finding information about vaccination
have been fully vaccinated
say they would attend an in-person cultural event this week given health safety guidelines being in place
say that online programs will play a small role or no role in their cultural life once facilities reopen
(February 3 & 24)
Arts audiences generally seem inclined to vaccinate. One quarter of respondents have already been fully vaccinated. Additionally, three quarters of those who have not yet been vaccinated intend to get the vaccine once it is made available to them.
Demand for live programming remains high, but the anticipated timeline for return now extends into autumn 2021. While about half of audiences say they would return immediately, the other half will wait for infection rates to drop in the general public.
Once they have returned to the theatre, most respondents expect to see social distancing and mask mandates enforced in venues.
The return to venues also seems to trigger a decrease in the importance of digital content among most consumers, with 90% saying that online programs will play a small or no role in their cultural lives.
A growing number of respondents expect to return September 2021
The perceived timeline for return has been extended for some respondents, based on vaccine roll-out and presumably due to the socialization of specific reopening dates by performing arts centers nationwide. 39% of respondents surveyed in mid-December said they would return on or after September 2021; the percentage of those who plan to return after September 2021 has grown as high as 57% since the new year.
While a consistently large number of respondents anticipate returning after vaccination or immunity, a growing contingent of respondents do not anticipate resuming attendance in the foreseeable future. As of early February, 15% of respondents say they will not attend in the foreseeable future, a figure that had held at about 4% through November but grew through the holiday season and into the new year.
25% of arts audiences have been fully vaccinated
As of February 24, 44% of respondents report that they have at least been partially vaccinated, including 25% who have been fully vaccinated. Of those who have yet to be vaccinated, 87% plan to ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ get the vaccine. 81% of those who will ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ get the vaccine will get it as soon as it is made available to them. When filtered by age group, the data suggests that ¾ of respondents over age 65 have been fully or partially vaccinated.
Half of vaccinated respondents report that they will still wait for infection rates to drop to generally low levels before they resume attendance at public events, while 25% are prepared to go out as soon as permitted. Respondents in older populations who have received the vaccine are more likely to wait for infection rates to drop than younger people who have already been vaccinated.
Respondents were also asked about their levels of confidence in the success of the vaccination effort. 94% of respondents say that they are at least somewhat confident that the vaccination effort will be successful enough to allow for the resumption of normal activity within one year from now.
One in five cultural audience members have encountered difficulties finding information about vaccination
While 80% of respondents say they have not encountered any difficulties or concerns pertaining to vaccination, 18% of respondents report having struggled to find information about how and where they can be vaccinated. These issues seem most prevalent among respondents above age 65 and below age 35.
45% say they would attend an in-person cultural event this week, given health safety guidelines are in place
Audiences are steeply divided on the timeline for return. About half are comfortable with current conditions and would return immediately; this perspective tends to skew toward younger populations, while older populations (whether vaccinated or not) seem more cautious.
Despite the conflict around the timing of return, projected demand remains encouragingly strong. No matter when they will resume in-person attendance, 92% of respondents maintain that they anticipate attending at least as much or more than they did before the pandemic began.
61% say that social distancing will be important upon return to arts and cultural venues
Most respondents view social distancing in seating protocols (61%) and mask wearing requirements (56%) in venues as important health safety measures, followed closely by improved ventilation/air flow (47%) and restroom health safety enforcement (40%). Nearly eight in ten agree that they can trust their local arts organization to implement and enforce health safety rules for all in attendance at the facility.
90% say that online programs will be an insignificant or nonexistent part of their cultural life once facilities are reopened for gathering
A slightly larger percentage of older populations are more likely to continually engage with online programming after facilities reopen, but overall, respondents view online programming as a stopgap measure employed during the pandemic.
Those who indicate that online programs will continue to play a substantial role in their cultural lives cite their prohibitive location/proximity to the theater, and the convenience of online content. These respondents have valued online programs featuring educational content and discussions with artists.