Dr. Anthony Fauci said he thinks theaters and other live entertainment venues could reopen “some time in the fall of 2021” during a conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals on Saturday, January 9th.
As The New York Times reports, Fauci said live entertainment’s return depended on vaccination rollout and getting between 70 to 85% of the population vaccinated.
“If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall of 2021, so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience,” Fauci said.
Even if the United States does reach herd immunity, however, Fauci said venues and theaters may still need to take some safety precautions, especially if they don’t have good ventilation or air filtration systems. Even if they do, he added, venues may still need to require audiences to wear masks, which could be necessary for some time even as the vaccine gets distributed.
The live entertainment sector has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and since last March venues have been burdened with the reality that they would likely be among the last businesses to reopen. The global concert business alone lost $9.7 billion in ticket sales in 2020, according to Pollstar, plus another $30 billion lost in sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, and more. Additionally, countless live entertainment professionals — from performers to roadies to venue employees — have been without work for nearly a year, and numerous venues were forced to close for good. While the recent passage of the Covid-19 relief bill with targeted aid for the live entertainment industry will help prevent more closures, many spaces will likely still face a difficult 2021.
During the APAP conference, Fauci said the concert industry could take some cues from the airlines when it comes to reopening and said admittance to shows could hinge on showing a negative Covid-19 test. He also cited a recent study in Germany that showed arena concerts could be safe if the venue was outfitted with a good ventilation system and had other safety protocols in place. One such precaution, however, is keeping shows at limited capacity, and as several live music industry professionals recently told Rolling Stone, many concerts aren’t financially feasible if venues can’t operate at full capacity.
While caution and vigilance remained Fauci’s top concerns, he did end on an optimistic note, saying, “We’ll be back in the theaters — performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it. It will happen.”