Leadership / 07.15.21
Reopening Tips from the Hollywood Bowl
It was fresh (fresh), exciting!
Many will recognize these words as lyrics from a mid-’80s hit song by Kool & the Gang, who officially reopened the Hollywood Bowl on the July Fourth holiday weekend. Complete with patriotic fireworks, these were the first full-capacity concerts at the iconic venue since the start of the pandemic.
“We were completely sold out, with 17,000+ tickets both nights,” says Joe Carter, Director of Sales and Customer Experience for the LA Phil. “They got the entire crowd up and dancing and singing along to ‘Celebrate,’ so it was just a fitting night. And, on that first night, you could see people weep. They were so happy to be there in a crowd enjoying music, doing one of the things that Angelenos cherish, which is their summers at the Bowl.”
By all accounts, things went smoothly as the audience celebrated good times with the enduringly popular soul-funk group, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and thousands upon thousands of fans. And while both nights were incredibly successful, Carter passed along four tips on a recent INTIX Wednesday Wisdom call to help your venue as it successfully reopens and recovers:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Some of your patrons may be remembering elevated experiences that go even beyond the delightful time they had at your venue most recently before the pandemic. To ensure things run smoothly, think through how and where you will share important information ahead of the show.
“Lines did not get too long because many people came early, which we really communicated,” Carter says. “So much has changed from the last time they attended, and we know people do not always read, so we send bite-sized messages and share the information differently because then they are more likely to read it. We sent the same message three times, and then we also included information on our social media in bite-sized chunks so that we could get it across.”
- Have masks available for people who change their minds. Most of the COVID-19 restrictions in California have been lifted, so there were no mask requirements to attend the outdoor show. An estimated one-in-eight patrons wore masks to the venue anyway. Fans were required to wear masks at indoor areas within the venue, including stores, restrooms and marketplaces. Masks were also recommended for unvaccinated patrons.
“We have masks at the gates if anybody wants them because, a lot of times, people think they’re going to be OK, and then they see there are a lot of people and they start to get nervous, so we offer them a mask if they would like to wear one,” Carter says.
- Think through parking protocols. The Hollywood Bowl sits at the intersection of a freeway and a busy street, and traffic is always challenging. Some fans drove and did not come as early as they may have in the past. Others used ride-sharing services, which put a strain on shuttle services at the end of the night.
“We had staff out on the streets directing traffic, double what we normally have,” Carter says. “What we did find is that some people took Uber or Lyft to the Bowl and then tried to get on the Bowl’s shuttle buses at the end of the night to get to the other parking lots so they could get away from surge pricing and then Uber home from there. This was not something we anticipated, so we did not have enough buses leaving. New rules are already in place for the next concert, and our solution is old school, admit-one chits. Fans show their digital tickets to get on the bus, we give them a chit that they must keep, then they will turn that chit in at the end of the night to get back on the bus. It is the only way we can do it because it is such a fast turnaround to try to get people out of the Bowl in time.”
- Print when it makes sense. Almost the entire house used digital tickets for the first time at the weekend holiday shows. The staff on-site had to get used to asking people to pull out their phones, but things went smoothly overall for the digital debut. There were, however, certain situations where printing just made sense.
“For our donor valet parking, we went ahead and printed all of their parking passes because we know that they prefer a solution that does not depend entirely on technology, so that helped us a lot on that end,” Carter says. “In the lot where our buses come and go and you need to have those paths cleared, we are going to print everything [to be displayed in the vehicles] because we need the ability, if somebody needs to move a car, to find out who they are [using the information on the parking pass].”
There is a bit of space between early full-capacity bookings at the Bowl, with the next show, “Peter and the Wolf” with Viola Davis and Dudamel, scheduled for July 15. Then, on Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17, the Hollywood Bowl welcomes Christina Aguilera with the LA Phil.
“We had the July Fourth concerts, and then we took a week and a half off [from hosting shows] so that we could reassess everything to be sure everything is set up,” Carter says. “We have been busy going through processes and understanding new challenges so that we will be able to smooth out any wrinkles before the next show.”
Echoing the lyrics from the classic hit “Celebrate,” Kool & the Gang undoubtedly brought good times and laughter, too. Indeed, there was a party going on as the crowd and Hollywood Bowl staff spent the evening celebrating. Is Carter ecstatic to be back?
“Oh, absolutely,” he says. “Our senior team always watches to see how things are going from the promenade, which is behind the garden boxes but in front of the terrace boxes. We were all just standing there, the National Anthem was playing at the beginning, and you heard 17,000 people singing along. You heard ‘Welcome home’ from the conductor, Thomas Wilkins, and the crowd went crazy. I have goosebumps again thinking about that part of the night, and then just seeing the joy. Then, of course, everyone was singing along to ‘Celebrate.’ It just was pure joy.”
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Tags: Venues , Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus , Reopening