Orange County’s Entertainment Venues Seek Clarity on Reopenings

April 11, 2021 Updated: April 11, 2021

Large entertainment venues throughout Orange County are preparing to welcome guests back with limited capacity.

California in early April loosened its COVID-19 restrictions, allowing indoor activities such as concerts, conferences, and theater performances to resume April 15.

Although the news was welcome among some entertainment providers, others said deciphering the rapidly changing tier status information and guidelines for compliance is a common concern among venue management.

The extent to which venues can reopen depends upon each county’s current status in California’s blueprint to reopening. Orange County recently slid into the orange tier and is expected to soon graduate to the less-restrictive yellow tier.

California is expected to almost completely reopen June 15, although it’s not yet clear whether there will continue to be restrictions on entertainment venues.

The scheduling, development, and implementation of concerts, sporting events, and conventions have long lead times. Some organizers and promoters have been forced to book their talent in other states where COVID-19 guidelines are more long-term-planning friendly.

“Recently previewed guidelines for private events are welcome, but they don’t address the needs of a large venue such as the Anaheim Convention Center,” Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster told The Epoch Times.

“Events and conventions are planned months if not years in advance, and we and our show organizers need clarity. Otherwise we will continue to see shows leave Anaheim, California, for similar venues in Florida, Texas, and other [less restrictive] states.

“That being said, we stand ready to host events.”

Ticket to Success

A key to Anaheim’s success when it comes to attracting conventions lies in the fact that convention attendees and workers spend money locally when they and their families visit Disneyland, catch a hockey or baseball game, and dine out while visiting the area, Lyster said.

The city typically sees about $20 million in hotel revenues alone associated with visitors coming to the Anaheim Convention Center.

“That revenue helps provide public safety and community services to residents and businesses,” Lyster said.

For now, Lyster said the convention center will host youth sports such as volleyball, as allowed by California, then resume smaller conventions later this year.

Though it might sound like an eternity for struggling area businesses and their employees, Lyster said that they are looking at 2021 as the start of recovery, and that 2022 and 2023 will be transition years back to event capacity and those former revenue streams.

Lyster said that he and his team are working together with other California convention centers as they continue to push for specific guidelines for conventions, conferences, and meetings.

“We are confident shows will return to Anaheim.”

Attracting Talent Takes Time

At the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, plans are underway to welcome back its popular Broadway series beginning in October.

Booking and coordinating Broadway musicals that travel throughout the country each year is a daunting challenge requiring plenty of advance notice and budgeting. This year, venues throughout the country such as Segerstrom will be increasing their operational budgets not only to entice the best talent, but also to meet and exceed the safety precautions necessary to attract audiences back to indoor venues.

Epoch Times Photo
The Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif., on April 6, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A spokesperson for Segerstrom Center told The Epoch Times that their biggest challenge in reopening is the impact that reduced indoor capacity has in terms of ticket sales.

It’s also a struggle to understand exactly how many tickets can be sold for any future shows at any given time, depending on state tier levels and requirements. Since ticket sales are a direct influence on any venue’s ability to pay their electrical bill, much less top performers, he said planning ahead under the current circumstances is challenging.

In order to create an environment that takes into account the safety, comfort, and confidence of artists, crews, patrons, staff, and volunteers, the center has rolled out a safe practices plan. It includes optimal air ventilation and circulation filtering systems, hands-free restroom fixtures, ticket purchases at the box office and check-in at the doors, as well as hand sanitation dispensers throughout the complex.

Segerstrom Center was able to book leading shows, announcing that its Broadway Series will include Center premieres of “Tootsie,” “Pretty Woman: The Musical,” as well as “Hadestown,” a new production of “My Fair Lady.” The series will have two bonus options available, including “The Band’s Visit” and the Broadway powerhouse “Wicked.” “Mean Girls,” which was initially included in the lineup, is being rescheduled with dates likely to be added in 2023.

Virtual performance opportunities and outdoor events in the center’s plaza will continue.

“I am thrilled to be able to confirm that our beloved Broadway shows will return with a spectacular line-up,” center President Casey Reitz said in a statement.

“Show producers and our presenting colleagues across the country feel strongly the promise of effective COVID-19 vaccines will make it safe for companies to tour safely and audiences to return to theaters to enjoy their favorite shows once again.”

Fair Game at the Fairgrounds

At the OC Fair and Event Center, plans continue for the reopening of the OC Fair and its live concert series at the Pacific Amphitheater.

The fair is planned to be held July 16 through August 15 and will be open Wednesday through Sunday with varying hours and limited capacity each day. Masks will be required by all guests and fair workers. Tickets will no longer be sold at the door as in prior years; they need to be purchased in advance.

Epoch Times Photo
The Orange County Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., on March 1, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Noting similar frustrations regarding the rapid movement through the state’s tier system and how it applies to venues hosting events such as fairs and concerts, Moore said that despite the challenges, they continue to make progress toward recovery.

“We are very excited to move forward and are working every day on adding new events and attractions as the OC Fair opening date approaches.”

Moore said that Centennial Hall and Heroes Hall, located at the fairgrounds, will soon reopen to the public and that more announcements about the fair and concert series will be released as details are confirmed.