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Has live entertainment bounced back from the pandemic?

From live music venues and theaters, to Hollywood and Broadway, many say the recovery has been slower than expected.

MINNEAPOLIS — During the pandemic the entertainment industry was hit hard.

Many people lost their jobs, and many venues closed.

Fast forward to today, and live music, movies and plays are back. But for a lot of venues, ticket sales aren’t quite back to where they used to be.

"The recovery that we were hoping for, expecting to see at this point in time, hasn't really come across,” First Avenue Vice President of Marketing Ashley Ryan says.

Compared to where they were a year ago, Ryan says things are great, but pre-COVID, ticket sales are still about 80% of where they used to be.

"We're seeing that here, across all of our venues. We are seeing the same thing across the state, and honestly across the country, that sales just aren't back,” Ryan explains.

And the sales they do have are different than they used to be.

Prior to the pandemic, Ryan says people would buy their tickets weeks or months ahead of a show. Now, she says most of their tickets are sold days before the show — or the night of — and a growing number of people are buying tickets and not showing up.

"And that's tricky because it hard for us to know what to do with staffing, it makes it difficult with products we should have in,” Ryan says.

Patricia McLean, a concert promoter with Sue McLean and Associates, is seeing it, too.

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"Everyone is working to, you know, sell tickets to their shows, but it's a little different,” McLean says.

The biggest difference? More bands.

With live music basically on hold for two years, McLean says nearly every artist out there is touring this year.

So, there are more shows than ever, but fewer people at each show and less money to go around.

"There's just a lot to choose from in the market for sure,” McLean says.

The recovery has also been slow for movie theaters. But this summer, things have quickly picked up with major hits like "Top Gun: Maverick," "Jurassic World: Dominion" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" paving the way.

While Hollywood is starting to get things back to normal, Broadway and live shows are still struggling.

According to data collected by Broadway World, the weekly ticket sales numbers are still low compared to sales in 2019 and 2018.

James Haskins at the Guthrie Theater is optimistic that things are starting to turn around.

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"We've been really encouraged by the response that we're seeing from our audiences,” Haskins says.

Haskins says their last show, "A Raisin in the Sun," outsold their projections, 

The Guthrie Theater has also returned to featuring two shows at the same time, which they haven't been able to do since the pandemic started.

"We're still working on staffing up. It's been a long journey. When the pandemic hit we did have to lay off almost 80% of our staff,” Haskins says.

Staffing continues to be a problem for live music venues as well.

Problems that will take some time to figure out.

"These smaller independent venues are truly just hanging on by a thread still,” Ryan says.

"It probably will take a little more time and for some of those small venues, time is definitely not on their side."

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