Arts & Culture

Theatre industry contracting in the US – report

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Theatres in America are facing a crisis similar to that faced during the 2008 recession, according to American Theatre.

American Theatre cited significant layoffs at venues such as New York City’s Public Theater and Dallas Theater Centre, season ‘pauses’ at LA’s Mark Taper Forum and Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, as well as emergency fundraising efforts at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Westport Country Playhouse. 

The Theatre Communications Group (TCG) publication noted that while many theatres on and off Broadway were posting encouraging box office numbers post-pandemic, there are questions posed around the health of theatre in the US. 

Contraction of the theatre industry started last summer, according to American Theatre. And one reason for this was that perhaps a return to full programming post-pandemic was not indeed, full. TCG member theatres programmed roughly 40% fewer shows in 2022-23 compared to the 2019-20 season. 

A study by JCA, an arts marketing firm, shows that while ticket revenue and audience capacity bounced back for the shows that were available, the number of productions was down. 

American Theatre expects that the number of shows for the 2023-24 season will not be much bigger and possibly even smaller. The field is shrinking, resulting in layoffs, cancellations and closures according to the publication. 

Zannie Voss, a director of SMU DataArts, told TCG that unlike the 2008 recession, the pandemic changed consumer habits, which has had an effect on demand. 

The article also highlighted a number of theatre closures across the US, including Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater, which ran between 2007 and 2022; Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, which also closed its doors in 2022 after 33 years; AstonRep Theatre Company in Chicago, which was open between 2008 and 2023 and Atlanta Lyric Theatre, which was open for 43 years. 

Elsewhere, Oakland’s Bay Area Children’s Theatre closed its doors in 2022; Berkshire Playwrights Lab in Great Barrington shut in 2021; BoHo Theatre in Chicago closed after 20 years in 2023; Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre shut in 2023 after 33 years; San Fransisco’s EXIT Theatre closed last year after opening in 1983 and many, many more have closed across the US.