BWW News: Survey Shows Washington, DC Regional Theatre-goers Are Not Yet Ready to Remove Their Masks

Theatre Washington, the service organization for Washington, DC-area theatres, and Limelight Insights by Shugoll, a national marketing research company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, conducted an online survey about whether regional theatre-goers want the current mask and vaccination requirements in theatres to end on April 30, 2022. The study is based on 2,128 responses from DC area theatre-goers from March 14-March 17. Despite indoor mask and vaccination mandates terminating in many local jurisdictions, significantly more audience members respond negatively than positively about ending these requirements in theatres. Based on the survey results and in consultation with partner theatres, Theatre Washington has extended the Unified Mask and Vaccination Policy to April 30, 2022, and will be reviewing it further through the launch of the new season in August/September.

Almost Twice As Many Theatre-goers Think Ending the Theatre Mask Mandate on April 30, 2022 Is a Bad Idea Rather Than a Good One

The majority of current theatre-goers (53%) are not in favor of ending the mask requirement for theatres on April 30, 2022. Of these, 39% are very negative about ending it. Only 30% are at least somewhat positive and just 22% are very positive about ending the requirement. Further, only about half (49%) say they are likely to attend theatre as often as they do now if masks were not required, while a significant number (38%) are likely to attend less often. Project Director Mark Shugoll says, "These statistics indicate that theatre-goers are concerned about attending the theatre this spring without a mask requirement. But as the dominoes fall to eliminate mask requirements in other areas of entertainment, theatres may be hard-pressed to continue this policy much beyond the end of April." President and CEO of Theatre Washington Amy Austin adds, "We are monitoring the decisions made in other industries such as restaurants, movies and travel, as well as in other cities and on Broadway. The safety of our audiences is of utmost concern to us."

June Through August, 2022 Might Be a Good Target for Ending Masks in Theatres

The first month that over half of theatre-goers with an opinion say they believe theatres should stop requiring audiences to wear masks is June (61%). This increases to 71% in August. "Since June is the traditional end of the theatre season in the DC area and August is approaching the launch of a new season, these are logical months to make a change," says Shugoll. The decision, however, is complicated by the fact that over half of respondents answered "not sure" when asked what is the right time to eliminate masks in theatres.

Audiences Are Strongly in Favor of Keeping a Vaccination Requirement and Adding a Booster Requirement

Over three-quarters of theatre-goers (77%) are very negative about eliminating the vaccination requirement on April 30, 2022. Only 6% would strongly like to see this ended. Additionally, 78% strongly believe audiences should be required to show proof of a booster shot. Only 6% strongly oppose adding the booster requirement.

Support for Continuing Mask Use and Vaccination Requirements after April 30, 2022 Is Consistent for Many Types of Theatre-Goers

Theatre subscribers and single ticket buyers, audiences of all ages, and attendees at family theatres as well as adult theatres feel similarly about keeping mask and vaccine requirements. All of these groups oppose ending the mask and vaccination requirements on April 30, 2022.

Methodology and Additional Information

This study was conducted using an online survey sent to subscribers and single ticket buyers at eight DC area theatres asked to participate by Theatre Washington: Arena Stage, Imagination Stage, Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Studio Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. These theatres were not randomly selected and are all large to mid-size theatres in the area. It is felt the views of theatre-goers from these theatres should likely reflect those of theatre attendees in the area overall. A total of 2,128 surveys were completed between March 14 and March 17, 2022. Data are accurate within +/- 2% at a 95% confidence level. Participants were required to attend at least one professional theatre production since theatres reopened. Note that Imagination Stage respondents were not included in the main analysis since the views of family audiences could be different than adult theatre audiences. They were analyzed separately. For more information contact Mark Shugoll, PhD, the study author, at [email protected].