If Remote Work Empties Downtowns, Can Theaters Fill Their Seats?


With Covid restrictions in place for the opera’s 2,928-seat auditorium capacity, it sold an average of 1,912 tickets per performance for “Fidelio,” its second production of the current season. That’s an improvement over the second production of Britten’s “Billy Budd” in 2019, a powerful piece that doesn’t always draw large audiences. As a result, “Roberto Devereux,” the opera’s second production in 2018, drew an average of 2,116 people per performance.

It’s never been more important for Shilvock’s company to “be bold, to be innovative, to be compelling to bring audiences back or give us a try for the first time,” he said. When it comes to things that have energy, vitality, and a reason for people to come into cities, “there will be a hunger for those things.”

Many challenges faced cultural institutions even before the pandemic, including an overburdened public transportation system, traffic, limited parking, and the epidemic of homelessness that was becoming increasingly visible. The tech industry now employs 19 percent of the private workforce, and many institutions were having difficulty attracting audiences and patrons from this demographic.

Arts organisations are using a variety of strategies to fill seats as they try to recover from the pandemic shutdown.

For $1,400 per night, Hope Mohr, co-director of Hope Mohr Dance, said that her organisation was streaming performances so that audiences could choose whether to come into San Francisco or watch from the comfort of their homes.

A hybrid experience is something she’ll be doing more of in the future, she declared. There are people from all over the Bay Area who come to see my company perform in San Francisco.