How Cinemas, PACs, and other Venues Still Spread Joy in 2020

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This has been an especially challenging year for cinemas and performing art centers, as well as for the audiences who love them. Being unable to come together to enjoy movies, plays, music, and more takes a toll on us all. Many theaters are worried about how they will keep the lights on until the next season. But, despite it all, there are many theater owners and managers who are doing everything they can to continue to bring joy to the people who have loyally supported them. We've gathered some of our favorite stories below.

Broadway Shows, Socially Distanced

With people being discouraged from both travel and from seeing live musicals indoors, theater fans are having a hard time getting their fix. The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids Michigan partnered with Fifth Third Ballpark to bring contemporary and classic Broadway hits to town.

The event was hosted safely outdoors so that people could enjoy a live performance without the risk. All songs were performed by West Michigan actors who are favorites at the Civic Theatre. Theater-goers could reserve a 12-foot-by-12-foot plot in the outfield for up to six guests. The concessions were open to allow attendees to enjoy beer, wine, and snacks during the show. The outdoor setting keeps people safer while also evoking the fun of theater in the park.

When the state of Michigan tightened gathering restrictions again this fall, the Civic Theater was ready to make another move to continue to allow people to enjoy live performances. Since in-person live events were canceled, they decided to take their performances of "A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play" virtual, instead. They plan to release an on-demand streaming performance of the show so that people who can still enjoy a holiday favorite with family and friends.

Stands Full of (Cardboard Cut-out) Fans

Minnesota United has been a fan favorite at Allianz Field for years. Like many sports teams, however, they were facing the prospect of a season played in an empty field, without their cheering fans.

At Allianz Field, however, they came up with a solution that would make the team and the fans watching at home feel a little more normal. The team initiated a fan cutout program. Individuals could send an image of their choice along with a $60 donation and have that image made into a cutout to populate the stands. The team also squeezed a few celebrities and pets in for fun. All donations were passed along to the Children's Cancer Research Fund, allowing that program to continue its lifesaving work. While it's not quite the same as getting to see the game in person—or seeing a friend in the stands when you are watching from home—the cutouts added a human element that kept the scene from feeling lonely.

Private Watch Parties

Movie lovers who have been dying to get back to the theaters have an exciting new option—private watch parties for up to 20 guests. Cinemark Central Plano has opened up their recently upgraded theater to private engagements so that people can still enjoy movies on the big screen without the risks of a crowded theater. Guests can choose between new releases and all-time classic favorites.

Viewers can enjoy stretching out in Spectrum ZC4 Recliner chairs while resting their arms on padded armrests and tucking their drinks into the included cupholders. The seats even have optional heat for chilly nights. Since the theaters are equipped with mass open and close, thorough cleaning between shows is a snap.

Taking the Show Virtual

Northern Sky Creative Center knew that they couldn't safely host guests in person in their 246 seat theater. So, instead, they have released a season of music, comedy, and other entertainment virtually. Visitors to the Creative Center's website can find links to a range of content to help stave off cravings for in-person musical performances. "Trunk Songs" features performances of musical numbers written for their shows that didn't make it into final production. Northern Sky @ Home allows people to enjoy impromptu performances and talks from actors, musicians, and authors. They plan to round out the year's offerings with "Home for the Holidays" on December 12. This day-long virtual celebration will include songs, stories and festive cheer to keep people happy through the holidays.

These are just a few of the innovative solutions that venues have come up with to keep the joy alive during a challenging year. As the situation continues to unroll, we think that they will continue to meet the challenges with creativity, tenacity and joy. We are looking forward to the time we can all celebrate our favorite arts together, while saluting those who are doing what they can to keep us all connected in the meantime.

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