ATLANTA — Updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are striking a chord with local concert venues. As COVID-19 rates drop, the entertainment industry is banking on a big comeback this summer.
The Fox Theatre plans to reopen in July for the first time since the pandemic, followed by a five-week run of Hamilton. President and CEO Allan Vella said this will be the second Broadway show to reopen in North America since lockdown.
There will be new additions at the Fox, such as mobile ticketing and concession ordering, new metal detectors and a new air filtration system. Masks will be required at the Fox Theatre until further notice, Vella said.
“I think we’ve learned how to be more nimble and how to prepare for this post-pandemic world and provide even better service to our customers than ever before," Vella said.
The pandemic forced the Fox Theatre and other entertainment venues to shut down for over a year. With no public ticketed events permitted, the venue had to reschedule hundreds of events and refund millions of dollars in ticket sales. Vella estimated the losses amounted to up to $70 million.
The Fox furloughed or laid off most of its staff and instituted pay cuts. Vella said a "rainy day" savings fund kept the theatre from closing while operations were down. He said smaller and independent venues weren't so lucky.
"They may not have the funds to rely on in terms of helping them bridge a significant period like this," Vella said. “When those smaller venues start to shut down and are no longer accessible when touring fires up again, that’s a problem for all of us. So it was in everyone’s best interest to see the whole industry come back.”
Shuttered venues are able to take advantage of the Small Business Administration's $16 billion federal grant pool. Vella said the Fox has applied for federal funding to recoup payroll costs, capital expenditures and future operations.
Vella promised that the Fox would not raise ticket prices, though he warned pent up demand could naturally drive up prices for resale tickets.
Venues are preparing to open as vaccinations are more widespread in Georgia.