The year 2020 was stormy, but we believe that every cloud has a silver lining.
The most successful live events organizations focused their efforts on reimagining, rather than retreating. They streamed, rather than strayed. They threw around ideas, rather than throwing in the towel.
Here are 20 live events organizations that were able to prosperously pivot, engage with their community and achieve success in 2020.
Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!
Hale Centre Theatre (Sandy, UT)
The Hale Centre Theatre is a non-profit theatre company headquartered in Sandy, Utah. They fulfill their mission of “enriching lives through world-class theatre” by offering family-friendly productions in their two state of the art theatres. Their pre-pandemic success – 751 out of 751 sold-out performances in 2018 – was detailed in this interview with their COO, Michael D. Fox.
After shutting down in March, they reopened their doors at the end of June and have welcomed more than 140,000 guests with no known cases of COVID-19 spread.
With Hale Centre Theatre’s seating capacity limited to 25% due to COVID-19 health guidelines, their live productions, unsurprisingly, sell out very quickly. Instead of depriving their loyal patrons of the opportunity to experience their annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” they took it to a new venue during the 2020 holiday season – Utah Megaplex Theatres. The theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol” — performed each year since 1985 — was shown at a number of movie theaters across the state during the month of December and was also available for streaming via Broadway on Demand.
Mid-America Festivals (Shakopee, MN)
Mid-America Festivals, the nation’s largest producer of outdoor single-themed events, entertains more than one million people in a variety of locations across the United States. Since all of their in-person renaissance festivals and faires were canceled in 2020, they pivoted and created events like the Festival on Parade in Shakopee, Minnesota – a 2.5-mile drive-through experience at a cost of $20 per vehicle. Promoted as the first-ever of its kind and a once-in-a-lifetime event, the event featured exciting entertainment, artisans and over 30 festival foods.
Greenwich Odeum (East Greenwich, RI)
Our friends at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich, Rhode Island allowed people to ‘light up the Odeum Marquee‘ with their own personal message for a small fee. For just $75, the Odeum will put your message on their marquee for at least 2 hours in the morning or afternoon of a scheduled day. The opportunities with a marquee rental are only limited by the buyer’s creativity (and 17 characters per line in the case of the Odeum, technically). If you can’t make it to see the marquee in person, they will provide supporters with a photo.
The Hanover Theatre (Worcester, MA)
Given the Hanover Theatre’s mission to foster a love and appreciation for the performing arts in audiences of today and tomorrow, the organization launched The Hanover Theatre Repertory (THT Rep) in September. Through this new initiative, they were the first organization in Massachusetts to be approved by Actors’ Equity Association to produce indoor, socially-distanced performances.
Seated cabaret-style and staged as a séance, THT Rep presented its Edgar Allan Poe Double Header for audiences of 20 or less in The Worcester BrickBox Theater. All patrons were required to wear masks and have temperatures checked at the door before enjoying the hour-long evening that included bubbly and individually wrapped dark chocolates pre-set at their tables. Performances were available by private booking only, either in the BrickBox or at a private residence.
Longwood University (Farmville, VA)
Longwood University, a public liberal arts university in Farmville, Virginia, sponsors 14 sports as members of the Big South Conference. The Longwood Lancers are not able to have fans at their basketball games this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they’ve leveraged the AudienceView Campus platform to create unique packages to keep their fans engaged. Their Not Quite Season Ticket Package includes a cardboard cutout of a fan’s face in the stands, Nike gear, custom Lancer Athletics face mask, $50 credit towards season tickets next year and more.
Gateway Playhouse (Bellport, NY)
The Gateway Playhouse, a theatre located in Bellport, New York, is the oldest of three professional theatres on Long Island and nationally recognized as one of the top ten summer theatres in the nation. With events inside their venue canceled, The Gateway pivoted by creating a drive-in movie theater which features the largest outdoor projection surface on Long Island.
Their movie lineup, which opened with Back to the Future in June, included something for everyone – from movie musicals to independent films to classics and everything in between. They positioned it as a fundraising event, with a cost of $40 per car ($15 for the movie ticket, plus a $25 donation).
The Mark Twain House & Museum (Hartford, CT)
The Mark Twain House & Museum was home to its namesake from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote many of his enduring masterpieces while he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
After shutting down in March, they were one of the first museums to safely re-open back in June. Unfortunately, they had to close again in November – jeopardizing their extensive holiday programming. They quickly pivoted to offer a number of virtual holiday events, in addition to providing their 3D house tour for free.
The Hillcrest Center for the Arts (Thousand Oaks, CA)
Situated on the Hill overlooking The Oaks Mall and the beautiful city beyond, the Hillcrest Center for the Arts is an epicenter of arts activity in the Conejo Valley. The Hillcrest Center was the first in its area to pivot and adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, launching drive-in events that included socially-distanced staged and streamed productions, comedy nights and movies. They regularly host stand-up comedy events that can be consumed as a drive-in event on their 40-foot screen or enjoyed at home via Zoom and YouTube Live. They go as far as encouraging drive-in attendees to honk their horn to show they are laughing.
Community & Fan Engagement
Eden Court (Inverness, Scotland)
Eden Court is an extraordinarily beautiful building on the banks of the River Ness in the capital of the Highlands. The organization drives 75% of their revenue from ticket sales, which ground to a halt back in March when the venue was forced to close. Scheduled to share this dire situation – including an ask for emergency funding – to the Highland Council, Eden Court CEO James Mackenzie-Blackman had an epiphany right before he presented to the group. James unexpectedly found himself offering help, rather than asking for it when it was his turn to speak.
This quickly led to a partnership between his organization and The Highland Council, which protected the jobs of the Eden Court workforce in return for help in setting up and staffing a COVID helpline, providing support for elderly people and childcare services so that the children of NHS workers could continue to serve. Eden Court also transformed their venue’s auditorium into a distribution center for food parcels that would directly benefit vulnerable families across the Highlands. Learn more about Eden Court’s pivot on episode 7 of the Unobstructed podcast.
Washington Pavilion (Sioux Falls, SD)
Rather than retreating when their doors were forced closed, the Washington Pavilion quickly rallied to launch a program called Experience Your Washington Pavilion @ Home. This collection of activities was specifically created to help their community find new ways to learn, connect and interact from a distance with their loved ones at home. The team produced 24 short videos that included virtual guided tours in their Visual Arts Center, theater tactics, art lessons and science demonstrations. They also developed an impressive list of make-at-home projects, coloring pages, educational worksheets and links to other programs that support general wellness. Learn more in this success story.
University of Tennessee Athletics (Knoxville, TN)
The University of Tennessee Athletics announced the launch of their brand new Vol ‘N Gear subscription box service in November. Volunteer fans across the United States can showcase their Big Orange spirit with the original pieces and exclusive collectibles included in each package. Each Vol ‘N Gear box is seasonally-inspired and ships right to the front door of the subscriber’s choice four times a year.
The four-box subscription includes one themed for the Voliday Season in December, a March Madness inspired box in March, a summer box in June and a tailgate kit before the football season kicks off in the fall. The Vol ‘N Gear boxes cost $69 each, but fans can save $30 by subscribing to all four Vol ‘N Gear boxes for $245.
Marist College Athletics (Poughkeepsie, NY)
The 2020-21 college basketball season tipped off with an empty McCann Arena on the gorgeous campus of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school was unable to host fans at sporting events during the fall semester – including men’s and women’s basketball games in their 3,200-seat on-campus arena.
In an effort to provide high quality broadcasts under these unique circumstances, Marist sold fan cutouts that were placed in the chair back seats behind the scorer’s table to provide a fan-filled backdrop on TV. Modeled after the campaigns from professional sports franchises, the fan images were used to fill seats in the arena and generate revenue for their athletics program. The cutouts cost $75 each, with portions of the proceeds going toward testing for their student-athletes.
Penumbra Theatre (St Paul, MN)
One of just three professional Black theaters in the United States, Penumbra has staged more than 200 plays since it was founded in 1976. The legacy Black arts organization announced back in August that it is getting a new name and a broader mission, evolving into the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. Described as more than a rebranding, the organization’s new focus is designed to better resource Black artists and drive social change.
While the organization will still produce plays, performing arts will become just one of three areas of focus, with the others being racial equity and wellness. The Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will launch new artistic offerings, equity training services, a wellness center and expanded staff to support its new areas of focus.
National Women’s Hockey League (New York, NY)
The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) regular season was cancelled, so they will now be playing a round-robin tournament without fans in Lake Placid, NY. In an effort to maintain fan engagement, the NWHL created pod passes (membership packages) for four teams in the league – Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, Connecticut Whale and Buffalo Beauts. These innovative packages vary by team, but include Zoom Q&A sessions with players, discounted merchandise, exclusive watch parties, autographed photos and inside access throughout the tournament.
Geffen Playhouse (Los Angeles, CA)
With their venue shuttered due to COVID-19, the Geffen Playhouse rebranded as a “Stayhouse” to stage interactive virtual shows. Through this initiative, the Los Angeles, CA based organization expanded its reach to anyone with an internet connection – increasing traffic on their website rather than the 405. Their Geffen Stayhouse has played for virtual audience members from all 50 states and 30 different countries, earning media coverage on CNN, TheaterMania and a dedicated episode of the Unobstructed podcast.
Matthew Fraser, LLC (Rhode Island, USA)
Matt Fraser, described as one of America’s top psychic mediums and star of the hit television series Meet the Frasers on E! Entertainment, made the virtual pivot and regularly sold out online events that are attended by swarms of new and old fans.
During his live online broadcasts, attendees join Matt Fraser in a virtual group reading where he shares lessons from the other side, answers questions about the afterlife and reads online audience members in real-time. This digital pivot has allowed him to grow his following, expanding his reach beyond North America to international audiences in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA)
Located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, Shakespeare & Company is one of the largest Shakespeare Festivals in the country – attracting more than 60,000 patrons annually. Challenged with a year of uncertainty, Shakespeare & Company embraced community and the need to engage and connect.
To close out the year, they hosted New Horizons, their first-ever completely virtual gala on December 5. The event was free, but donations in support of their performances, education and training programs were encouraged. The gala was attended by more than 2,000 people, generating significant revenue from donations that included a matching gift in support of their education programs from two generous supporters.
To maximize their reach to their community and extend beyond it, they also listed their virtual gala through AudienceView’s consumer brand, TheaterMania, which boasts a monthly volume of 600k+ unique visitors.
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (New York, NY)
The award-winning National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, the longest continuously producing Yiddish theatre company in the world, streamed A Star-Studded Folksbiene Chanukah Spectacular to over 20,000 registrants. This fundraiser featured over 50 Broadway and Yiddish stage stars from all over the world, including Billy Crystal, Barry Manilow and Mayim Bialik. The online event was free to join, with donations welcomed.
Baruch Performing Arts Center (New York, NY)
The Baruch Performing Arts Center leveraged the AudienceView Professional platform to execute live streamed events by utilizing pre-show emails and email confirmations to distribute the event link. Their events are free to attend, but include a fundraising campaign as a suggested item at checkout that allows their patrons to select how much they would like to donate. This ‘donate-what-you-can’ strategy has been a successful way to generate revenue, while still allowing everyone to access their great content.
British Film Institute (London, UK)
The British Film Institute’s 2020 London Film Festival (LFF) was in jeopardy of being canceled due to COVID-19, so they transitioned to a virtual event. They leveraged their video on-demand streaming service, BFI Player, along with AudienceView and its API to facilitate a very successful virtual film festival. LFF Tickets were sold via AudienceView Unlimited and then the API pulled the ticket number information and selected customer data into BFI Player. BFI then used the ticket number as a one-time use unique promo code, which was emailed to the customer.
Although these 2020 initiatives were born in a time of tumult, many of these can and will be applied in 2021. We expect our amazing clients to continue to adopt the “Yes, and…” principle of improv and abstain from using dangerous phrases like “we’ve always done it this way” as they continue to navigate the next normal.
AudienceView is proud to support these endeavours via our software and marketing platforms. If you want to see how AudienceView can help you get your unique events discovered, attended and remembered, contact us today!