Actors at the Rivendell Theatre in Chicago. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune)
The Digital Age
One reason for the decline in theater attendance is the rise of digital entertainment. With the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, people can now watch movies and TV shows from the comfort of their own homes. This convenience and accessibility have made it more difficult for theaters to attract audiences.
Another factor is the changing demographics of society. Younger generations, in particular, are less interested in traditional forms of entertainment like theater. They prefer more interactive and immersive experiences that can be found in video games and virtual reality.
Lack of Diversity
The lack of diversity in theater is also a problem. Many people feel that theater is elitist and does not cater to a diverse audience. The stories and characters portrayed on stage often do not reflect the reality of society, which can alienate potential audiences.
Finally, rising ticket prices have also contributed to the decline in theater attendance. People are less willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money to see a play or musical, especially when there are cheaper alternatives available.
Reviving Interest in Theater
Despite these challenges, there are ways to revive interest in theater. One approach is to embrace technology and incorporate it into the theatrical experience. For example, interactive and immersive theater experiences that incorporate virtual reality can attract younger audiences.
Another way to attract diverse audiences is to feature more diverse stories and characters on stage. This can help people see themselves reflected in the stories being told and feel more connected to the experience.
Finally, theaters can make an effort to lower ticket prices and make theater more accessible to a wider range of people. This can be done through discounts, special offers, and community outreach programs.
The decline in theater attendance is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. By embracing technology, promoting diversity, and making theater more accessible, we can reignite public interest in this important art form. Theater has the power to move and inspire people, and it is up to us to ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come.
It isn't that large segments of the public have chosen to turn their back on what live performance really is. But they have lost interest in what they falsely assume it is – an entertainment experience for which they already have a completely equal substitute elsewhere.
If you want to attract a new audience, it isn't just a matter of convincing them you have the best theatre production that ever was because that doesn't mean anything to them. That's a perfect approach to keep the theatre lovers coming back for more.
But to really reach a new audience? You must show (not tell) them how your production is unlike any experience they can find on any screen in the world.