Theatre Washington, the service organization for DC-area theaters, and Limelight Insights by Shugoll, a national marketing research company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, conducted an online survey about whether regional theatergoers want the current mask and vaccination requirements in theaters to end on April 30, 2022, or subsequent months. The survey report is based on 2,128 responses from DC-area theatergoers from March 14 to March 17, 2022. Despite the termination of indoor mask and vaccination mandates in many local jurisdictions, significantly more audience members respond negatively than positively about ending these requirements in theaters. Based on the survey results and in consultation with partner theaters, Theatre Washington has extended the Unified Mask and Vaccination Policy to April 30, 2022, and will be reviewing it further through the summer and fall.
Almost twice as many theatergoers think ending the theater mask mandate on April 30, 2022, is a bad idea rather than a good one
The majority of current theatergoers (53%) are not in favor of ending the mask requirement for theaters 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%) of the respondents say they are likely to attend theater as often as they do now if masks are not required, while a significant number (38%) are likely to attend less often.
Project Director Mark Shugoll says, “These statistics indicate that theatergoers are concerned about attending the theater this spring without a mask requirement. But as the dominoes fall to eliminate mask requirements in other areas of entertainment, theaters 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, artists, and staff is of utmost concern to us.”
June through August 2022 might be a good target for ending masks in theaters
The first month that more than half of theatergoers with an opinion say they believe theaters should stop requiring audiences to wear masks is June (61%). This increases to 71% in August. “Since June is the traditional end of the theater 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 more than half of respondents answered “not sure” when asked what is the right time to eliminate masks in theaters.
Audiences are strongly in favor of keeping a vaccination requirement and adding a booster requirement
More than three-quarters of theatergoers (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 theatergoers
Theater subscribers and single ticket buyers, audiences of all ages, and attendees of theater for young audiences (families) feel similarly about keeping mask and vaccine requirements. All of these groups oppose ending the mask and vaccination requirements on April 30, 2022.
This study was conducted by Limelight Insights by Shugoll using an online survey sent to subscribers and single ticket buyers at eight DC-area 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 theaters were not randomly selected and are all large to mid-size theaters in the region. The views of theatergoers from these theaters should likely reflect those of theater 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 have attended at least one professional theater production since theaters reopened. Note that Imagination Stage respondents were not included in the main analysis and were analyzed separately since the views of family theater audiences could be different from those of traditional theater audiences.
Through collaborative partnerships and programs, Theatre Washington supports the Washington, DC, area’s professional theater community to celebrate artistic achievement, strengthen the theatrical workforce, support institutional growth and advancement, and cultivate collective action. Theatre Washington’s core programs include the Helen Hayes Awards, Theatre Week, Theatre Summit, Theatre Work, and the Taking Care Fund.
It’s still not time for theaters to quit mask and vax requirements (DCMTA editorial, March 22, 2022)