Maine Audiences Weigh In on Reopening Theaters and Performing Arts Venues

  • September 08, 2020

Maine Arts Commission publishes results of Audience Outlook survey

AUGUSTA--The first deployment of Audience Outlook surveys from the Maine Arts Commission occurred on July 10 resulting in a total of 4,080 responses to date. The Audience Outlook survey is designed to measure audience comfort levels and assess the reopening of performing arts venues and public presentation spaces throughout Maine. Currently public gatherings and presentation spaces are open under the state issued guidelines administered by Governor Mills’ Office and the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.  These survey results represent a baseline, and the Arts Commission will track changes in attitudes as responses are collected in subsequent months. 

Results Summary

  • When asked what size venue audiences would feel comfortable in, more than half (51%) of respondents said they would “not be comfortable” attending a show, regardless of the venue size. 
  • When asked how the respondent would determine that it’s safe to return to a live presentation, the top response was “not until there is a vaccine or immunity to the virus.” This response was reinforced by another question in the survey asking if audiences would attend provided there are no outbreaks/hot spots in the area.  
  • Almost 60% of respondents said they would be “somewhat comfortable” attending an outdoor concert, but, conversely more than 80% said they would not be comfortable attending a venue without seats or adequate spacing.

Proposed Safety Measures

The Audience Outlook survey tested attitudes toward a list of safety measures that performing arts spaces can take to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Overall, respondents were most encouraged by lower crowd attendance and proper social distancing measures. The top safety measures as indicated by the respondents were: 

  • To be seated at least 6 feet from people who are not immediate family members
  • To know that the venue has placed crowd size limits on the number of attendees
  • To avoid long queues of people
  • To know the venue’s cleaning procedures
  • Almost 60% of respondents would be willing to pay a higher ticket price to be ensured they are safe.
  • Almost 60% of respondents would return immediately to live performing events as soon as a vaccine is available. And another 50% would return within six months.

The survey’s findings represent the first wave of data sets recorded from Maine audiences. It is important to note the survey summary finds that Maine audiences do express a desire to return to live events. Implementing safety measures to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus at venues is regarded as important to the survey’s respondents, however, the safety measures remain secondary to having a vaccine readily available in order for venues to resume a normal schedule with full audience attendance. 

The Maine Arts Commission remains dedicated to distributing the most up-to-date and relevant information that affects not only the several hundred dedicated community arts spaces spread across the state, but all spaces where the performing arts and public presentations take place. 

Additional information and resources can be found at the Maine Arts Commission’s COVID-19 Resources Page.

To learn more about the Maine Arts Commission’s current and future programs please go to www.MaineArts.comYou can also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @MaineArts.  


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Ryan Leighton

193 State Street
SHS 25
Augusta  ME  04333