Even with masking mandates now out the door and corona pass requirements scrapped, the north Netherlands’ stage industry is still struggling with low bookings and thin attendance. “The seat occupancy at our performances is about 65 percent of the level before the corona crisis,” Natalie Straatman, director of Meppel’s Ogterop theater, told RTV Drenthe. “Even the big names don’t get the audiences we were used to from the past. Of course that has financial consequences for us.”
Low audience numbers have hit stages and shows of almost all of Drenthe’s cities and towns – from small arts centers to grand cultural institutions – but with the same loss of much-needed revenue. Theatergoers are reluctant to return to shows in Assen, Coevorden and Roden, Ms Straatman points out, and she has a hunch as to why the seats remain empty. “People say they want to come, but there are so many other things they need to take care of first. Some of the theatergoers are also a little afraid of the corona. People, of course, still get infected. So we really need to do more to rebuild audience confidence,” she says.
In the meantime, the Meppel theater has come up with a plan to boost audience attendance. Theater lovers can now become ‘friends of Ogterop’ free of charge for a period of one year. That gives them a few nice perks, Ms Straatman says. “They receive theater programs at home and are entitled to early purchases of tickets. This is an advantage when popular shows are on. They also benefit from discounts on a lot of performances.”