New Audience Survey on Mask-Wearing

Theatre Washington and Limelight Insights by Shugoll, a national marketing research company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, collaborated on an online survey, open from October 19-21, 2022, to better understand theater-goers’ opinions and attitudes toward Covid-19 safety policies at DC-area theatres. 

The report shows that among the 2,755 responses from survey participants — representing theatre-goers both pre-pandemic and since theatres reopened in fall of 2021 — theatre attendance is down overall and the driving reason is that people continue to have concerns about Covid-19. Covid-19 has had a strong impact on frequency of attending theatre. The average annual number of shows attended dropped from 7.38 (pre-pandemic) to 4.80 (after 2021). Around two-thirds of respondents (68%) report that concern about getting Covid-19 is a very important reason why they have not attended. Only 17% have not attended because they do not want to wear a mask at the theatre and only 11% do not want to show proof of vaccination.

Around half (48%) of audience members surveyed stated a preference for mandatory mask-wearing everywhere in theatre venues while about a third (31%) prefer for them to be optional everywhere. An additional 17% of survey respondents would prefer masks inside the performance space but not in the lobby or other areas. Among current attenders (those who have been to the theatre since fall 2021), 12% would attend more often if mask requirements ended, while 41% would attend at least somewhat less often. Very few (7%) would stop attending the theatre entirely if masks were not required. 

When many DC-area theatres reopened for live performances in the fall of 2021, theatres across the region united to provide a high level of public safety, first requiring mandatory mask-wearing and proof of vaccination in theatre venues. The latest update to the unified policy in August 2022, required mask-wearing inside performance spaces, but not in other areas of the building, where food and drink were available. As Covid-19 moves from a pandemic to an endemic, the policies at individual theatres are evolving non-uniformly, based on their own audiences, geographic location, venue size, air systems, consultations with public health experts, and state and federal guidance. From now forth, DC-area theatres will update their policies independently. Theatre-goers should consult individual organization and venue websites for the most current information.