New COVID-19 restrictions – what do they mean to the theatre industry?

by | Dec 10, 2021

New COVID-19 restrictions have been announced by the UK Government to try and control the spread of the Omicron variant.

But what does this mean to the performing arts sector and theatre’s ability to deliver live events? For the moment, venues can continue to operate at full capacity.

But it’s possible this could change at short notice with Ireland, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Austria and other European countries imposing tighter restrictions than the UK.

Without doubt, these are concerning times for event organisers. But even in the worst scenario of theatres operating at a reduced capacity or closing doors completely, there remain solutions. Digital theatre and hybrid.

What the restrictions mean?

Several new restrictions were announced at a press conference hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, December 8.

People must continue to wear masks in all public venues, work from home has been reintroduced and COVID-19 ‘passes’ are now required to enter nightclubs, sports stadia and theatres.

The NHS COVID-19 Pass is important to understand. Venues are obliged to check visitors’ COVID-19 Passes as a condition of entry. This means theatregoers must now show:

  • They have been double vaccinated
  • They have received a negative test result in the last 48 hours

Theatregoers can be refused entry if either of these two requirements aren’t proven.

Providing an alternative

The pandemic acted as an accelerator for change concerning audiences demand and acceptance of digital theatre.

Providing a digital alternative for theatregoers unable to attend performances in person had never seriously been considered before. But is works and furthermore it works financially. And our client’s experience and data proves it.

And, best of all, digital theatre expands an auditorium meaning shows can reach new audiences locally and internationally.

Award-winning Digital Producer and Technical Director Simon Baker of Wise Children experienced this first-hand.

“Lockdowns taught us that digital theatre can work,” said Simon. “Hybrid theatre offers far greater access to the audience and breaks down attendance barriers such as travel, health or financial implications.”

How does digital work?

It sounds a bit daunting at first. The thought of taking a physically exclusive production that has served its purpose for generations and putting on a digital version.

The fact is, digital can be as simple or as complicated as you wish.

Organisations with smaller budgets may wish to invest between £1,000 and £2,000 to deliver a basic but quality online production. Here is your essential shopping list:

  • A quality second-hand camera with the appropriate adaptors
  • A reliable laptop with a good central processing unit (CPU)

That’s it. Access to a camera and a laptop provides theatres with the option to take their show to the world. It provides venues with the ability to provide hybrid theatre, where people can watch in person at the venue, or online. Plus if the worst happens and we go into a lockdown venues have an immediate back-up plan and can provide streaming and on-demand to its audience.

Simon added: “For a digital event to be successful, you need a robust streaming partner. We highly recommend TicketCo.

TicketCo provides a secure streaming platform which allows performances to be monetised. It’s integrated too, meaning we can sell tickets to physical customers under one roof. Most importantly, TicketCo is simple.

“We cannot stress the important of a clear and simple user experience. That’s how you make your digital and hybrid events a success with longevity in mind.”

Theatre’s “responsibility”

Letting customers down by postponing highly anticipated events at the 11th hour really is the last thing an event organiser wants to do.

We accept viewing an event digitally does not come near to the live experience, but it provides an alternative viewing platform and caters for people who:

  • Are isolating because of COVID-19
  • Live abroad
  • Unable to attend due to health, travel or financial implications
  • Experience sight or hearing difficulties

“As an Arts Council funded organisation, Wise Children has a moral obligation to make theatre accessible to everyone,” said Simon. “Hybrid offers an excellent solution.

“A live show cannot provide a quality experience for those with sight or hearing difficulties. By live streaming, we can audio describe performances, we can caption them and have a BSL interpreter.

“Making performances accessible defines the power of hybrid.”

Digital demand

Significantly, once you have captured a performance, you own it.

This means a show can be made available on-demand. But your opportunities do not end there.

Simon added: “We can send our productions to schools and universities for educational purposes. Content can be repurposed and used to market future performances too.

“If you’ve made a significant investment into the digital strand of your production, it’s possible to explore other revenue streams. Providers such as Amazon, Netflix and the BBC burn through content and we can now take our show to them.”

Full support

To help event organisers provide customers with the best possible streaming experience, we have developed a welcome pack which outlines the ’10 Steps to Streaming Success’.

The Welcome Pack is free to access and guides users through the TicketCo platform, ticket types, branding, connecting broadcasts, hardware and software considerations and much more.

Readers can access the Welcome Pack by clicking here. Alternatively, you can contact our friendly team directly by booking an appointment here.

Whatever restrictions are put in place our team are here to help you.

The definitive guide for theatres to live stream shows

The absolute best, most up-to-date, definitive guide for theatres to learn how to live stream theatre productions to their audience.

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE FOR THEATRES TO LIVE STREAM SHOWS

The goal of this guide is to provide the absolute best, most up-to-date, definitive guide for theatres and production companies to learn how to live stream shows to their audience as part of their integrated approach to sales and marketing.

Written by Shaun Reynolds

Communications advisor and expert storyteller with Fortitude Communications. A former news reporter and sports editor of five years across several UK regional titles. Experienced in photography and social media management with a passion for the outdoors.

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