D.Despite the ongoing COVID-19 threats, the results of a recent survey clearly show that residents of the Joplin area are ready to attend live entertainment events in 2021.
More than 530 people took part in an Audience Assessment Survey created by Connect2Culture, Joplin’s Community Arts Agency. In it, the group measured the public’s willingness to take part in personal live events such as concerts or plays – something that has become rare in the entire Joplin metropolitan area since the pandemic in March last year.
“This poll tells us that people are ready to go back, but they want the precautions to be taken,” said Emily Frankoski, director of C2C. “They want live entertainment, but they want to feel safe.”
According to the survey, 51% of people would consider attending live indoor events in the near future, she said. For outdoor events, 89% of the 535 people surveyed would consider participating.
“We are satisfied” with the results of the survey, said Frankoski. “It gives us confidence in the future so that we can have some guidelines. There are so many polls out there, but one that just focuses on the Joplin area helps a lot and just makes a lot of sense. “
The 51% who felt comfortable watching an indoor show or concert in 2021 added, “I’m pretty surprised. I knew outdoor concerts (concerts) were going to be popular, but I’m glad the indoor concerts (percentage) were so high. “
That bodes well for local entertainment in 2021 and beyond, she said.
As the urge for live entertainment grows, safety remains a priority, according to the survey. A large percentage of people said they prefer to combine entertainment with safety at both indoor and outdoor events – namely temperature controls, wearing masks, social distancing, limited seating and accessible toilet facilities, Frankoski said.
More tellingly, 79% of respondents said they would not be prevented from attending a live indoor or outdoor event if such security precautions were in place.
“People who want to go out and take part in these things are okay with the (safety) precautions. I think local organizations can feel comfortable doing this … what health professionals and local government do to all of us suggest, “she said.
“I think if we had done this poll three or four months ago we would have had much lower numbers,” Frankoski continued. “But I think the vaccines made a lot more optimistic people.”
Bradley Crane, owner of Joplin-based Bookhouse Cinema, said public interest in large-screen indoor movies has not decreased despite the ongoing dangers of COVID-19.
“We had calls from individuals every day last year to find out when movies were playing,” he said. “COVID-19 has not stopped some cinephiles from wanting the slightest public live performance.”
It wasn’t until the COVID-19 case numbers began to decline that Crane thought it was safe enough to reopen Bookhouse’s single-screen cinema.
“Last weekend was our first weekend of public performances in months and we had people on every show,” said Crane. “It’s wonderful that this is happening, but we know how devastating it would be for someone to get sick on our watch. We continue to work as if there were high risks just around the corner and we keep abreast of trends in neighboring countries. “
When the local entertainment venues temporarily closed their doors in March last year due to the pandemic, only the two drive-in theaters in Carthage and Lamar were opened after the national ban was lifted. The Lamar-based Plaza Theater began showing Hollywood films to a limited audience in late June. However, many other local theaters turned to the virtual audience early on.
For example, Bookhouse offered rentable films directly on a person’s computer or smart TV. Joplin-based Studio 124 had to debut its first production, Mayhem in Mayville, on Facebook Live rather than traditional live performance. Rehearsals for Joplin Little Theater’s late show Enter Laughing were conducted through Zoom. Earlier this month, Neosho-based ArtCon 2021 went virtual for the first time in its history, while Joplin’s Pro Musica is currently offering downloadable virtual concerts.
Despite these innovations, the C2C survey showed that people are fed up with this trend. Only 53% of respondents said they would continue to participate in virtual programming. More tellingly, they’d only be willing to do this if the download / viewing fee was $ 15 or less – or better yet, free. and 34% of surveyors said they were no longer interested in any virtual programming.
“I think a lot of people have turned to virtual programming,” Frankoski said when there was little choice, “but we see that there is nothing like live entertainment. I think people just burned out. Some people are fed up with it; Some people don’t want it at all, and for some people, it competes with their (already busy) schedules. “
Becki Arnall, founder of the Dream Theater Company, echoed Frankoski’s views.
“Our target market has burned out for online entertainment, and streaming options aren’t popular enough right now to be considered,” she said. “We also see that genre and cast size don’t seem like a big factor in consumer show choices. Box-office meetings also found that people who generally don’t consider themselves theater fans, or who normally actively seek out alternative entertainment, are looking for something to do. The pandemic has increased the desire to try something new (and) attend a performance. “
Early on, Arnall rearranged shows to suit the living but smaller crowds.
“The ability to start with small cast shows, limit audience capacity, and increase our comfort level in dealing with the pandemic has really got us to a point where we have managed to return to a semblance of where we wanted to be, even though there are still events that we would like to have in the future that are too big for us to safely carry out a mid-pandemic, ”she said.
Fortunately, the local audience is more than ready to fill the available but limited seats.
“What we see with the public participation in (Studio 124) shows us that people are ready to get out,” she said.
Starting in April, Pro Musica will host a series of outdoor concerts that will focus on social distancing practices. Late last summer and into early fall, Bookhouse continued to offer safe outdoor film screenings that were enthusiastically received by the community. and while the details are vague at the moment, Frankoski is hoping C2C will hold outdoor concerts in July, perhaps using Mercy Park as the venue.
“We are now comfortable doing something outdoors with limited seating based on the (survey) information,” she said.
Arnall added, “I really hope this data and the C2C survey will calm the minds of anyone wondering if it’s okay to make changes and adapt to move on. I also hope that the public will see that we are all together and that everything will be fine if we take it step by step. “