Southwest Florida theaters working to rebound

Posted at 1:06 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 13:10:29-05

FORT MYERS, Fla -- The Southwest Florida theater scene looks a lot different this season than it did before the pandemic. Many of the productions you would have previously enjoyed inside an auditorium are being taken virtual or outdoors. The industry has had to completely modify and adapt the way it engages with audiences, while working to rebound during the pandemic.

"Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" is coming to Florida Repertory Theatre's outdoor venue in Downtown Fort Myers beginning Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. with William Shakespeare's comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

It’s the latest offering in Florida Rep's Outdoor Series as a co-production with the Education Department. Tickets range from $60-$120 for a 12' x 12' square on the lawn for up to six people. This offers audiences an opportunity to enjoy a live performance while maintaining a social distance from other groups.

In addition to outdoor productions like this, Florida Rep said it’s also doing quite a bit of virtual programming. That will include its 2021 Virtual Gala that's coming up Feb. 27. It will be free, and any donations made during the event will be matched 100%.

Theaters and artists have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. Fox 4 gathered data from a few local theaters to give you bigger picture perspective of the issue.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre said that when you compare 2019 vs. 2020, total gross income was down $4,375,000 which is 50% less than the pre-pandemic year. Total attendance was down 58%, which is roughly 100,000 tickets.

Gulfshore Playhouse explained that because it's had to wait for approval from the Actors’ Equity Association to do any live professional productions, its ticket sales certainly look a lot different. The theater just got the green light to do its first live show of the season last month and will be announcing a second soon. It said ticket sales have decreased significantly because of these limitations. In previous seasons, it would have had three shows produced by now. They're also selling tickets at reduced capacity.

Florida Rep added that it's also seating a limited number of people during its outdoor productions, which is by choice to keep audiences safe. But it does mean the theater is selling a lot less in terms of individual tickets than it would have inside its 400-seat house.