Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that New Jersey’s indoor performance venues, including music clubs and theatres, can reopen at reduced capacity starting Friday, Sept. 4. This executive order also includes movie theaters.
Venues are allowed to open at a capacity of either 25 percent or 150, whichever is less. Everyone, staff and guests, must wear masks and comply with social distancing. Food and drink can be served. However, this is only for ticketed performances – no standing room or general admission shows allowed.
While this is good news for smaller music venues and clubs, it will be more difficult for larger venues. Even more concerning is what it means for New Jersey’s large theatres – like State Theatre New Jersey, Paper Mill Playhouse and Mayo Performing Arts Center. Some of these institutions have lost millions in the past six months. Now, they are allowed to open at a fraction of their capacity, with (likely) no live shows lined up anyway.
And it may not even be financially realistic for them to open at such a reduced capacity. For a theatre like State Theatre that can sit 1850 people, operating at such a small number is likely impossible. If the capacity number includes employees and audience members, then the amount of tickets they could sell would be next to nothing, not to mention the profit would be essentially nonexistent.
While we likely will not see any big theatres here in New Jersey opening up at these limits, it still gives me hope for the future that live theatre will be able to make its safe return eventually. These theatres have done so much since March to try to stay afloat, canceling and rescheduling shows and shifting to digital programming.
Although theatres legally can reopen now, they probably will not for financial reasons. However, I may be surprised. Perhaps some of these venues have a smaller theatre or a black box theatre where they can put on more intimate shows and be able to function. Or maybe they will continue with the digital programming and wait until they can reopen in full, or at least with a larger capacity. Whatever happens, I am eager for theatre to return.
In the meantime, please contact your representatives and urge them to help the live events industry. The link I have attached allows you to easily fill out a form to send a letter. If you are financially able to, please consider making a donation to the NJ Arts and Culture Recovery Fund. It is the least we can do to help our beloved industry survive.
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