Winter is Coming

Jamie Alexander

Director, Strategy & Insights

Jamie helps cultural organizations understand the behaviors of their audiences and create data-driven strategies to continually engage them.
October 20, 2022

Now is the time to prepare for a COVID spike (even though we hope it doesn’t happen).

As we head into the holiday season, things are looking up compared to last year. Life is mostly back to normal (save lingering WFH days—hang on to them!), masks are coming off in theatres, and our clients are even seeing signs that sales for holiday shows are rebounding compared to last year.

But there’s still reason to be cautious about the potential of another winter COVID spike and its potential effect on sales. Our study of 2021-22 season sales trends showed that sales for performances in December through February were down by 19% compared to pre-pandemic seasons, due to the Omicron spike. Those months used to be the most lucrative of the year:

Percent Capacity Paid by Month

While it’s a year later and we’re hopeful that the Bivalent vaccines and increased immunity from recent sickness will result in fewer cases, we should still prepare ourselves for the possibility that a COVID spike could hit us again. Now is the time to make sure your ticketing and marketing staff is prepared:

Create a COVID Revenue Projection: Using your sales from last year, combined with the figures from our study above, create an alternative revenue projection for the event that a COVID spike hits. Share this alternative with your executive team now to set expectations and prepare finances, should the worst happen.

Consider Your Refund Policy: Are you allowing (or even encouraging) your patrons to exchange or refund their tickets if they get sick? What are your rules for when refunds are allowed? Don’t encourage the spread of COVID (or other disease) just because of a strict return policy.

Review Show Cancellation Procedures: Should you have to cancel a show due to sickness, is your procedure for cancelling a show and communicating with patrons thoroughly outlined and documented? Is all staff, including new staff, familiar with it? Any preparation now will save you critical time later.

Determine a Communication Plan for Re-instating COVID Policies: If you need to put mask, vaccine, or distancing policies back in place, are you prepared to communicate that information with your audiences? Make sure your team knows the messaging and channels to hit should you need to re-instate COVID policies, and the roles and responsibilities around those communications.

Plan for Staffing Contingencies On-Site: As we experienced during our reopening seasons, vaccination check lines, distancing coordination, and other COVID-related operations put a burden on on-site personnel such as ushers and ticket-takers. While these procedures have been going away, have a plan ready for if they come back, so that you can put on the show without over-taxing your staff.

Preparing now for a COVID spike will save you time and headaches if/when it happens (or should another natural disaster happen!). Should you need an assist to help with ticketing policies around COVID or managing revenue in the face of a potential COVID spike, JCA Arts Marketing can help.

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