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Ohio Citizens for the Arts warns without federal or state funding, theaters may never reopen

Approximately 1,200 performances across the state have been canceled because of COVID-19 since March, according to Ohio Citizens for the Arts.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Theaters were first to shut down and likely will be the last to reopen because of the coronavirus.

Approximately 1,200 performances across the state have been canceled because of COVID-19 since March, according to Ohio Citizens for the Arts.

Combine that with state restrictions on mass gatherings, and the arts community estimates it's lost more than $20 million over the past six months.

The coronavirus has turned theater stages dark, and left the arts community in the red financially.

“The part-timers we had to lay-off immediately. There were just no hours available for them and we have 100 to 200 full-time equivalents over a course of the year that were also let go,” said Chad Whittingham, President and CEO Of CAPA. 

Columbus Association for the Performing Arts filed a WARN notice on Sept. 1 alerting the state it would need to cut 35 to 45% of its full-time staff.

It wrote, "Unfortunately, five months later we are still closed, the public gathering limitations are still in place, and most performances scheduled in our theatres have canceled. With our theatres dark, there has been no work available for our part-time staff.”

Whittington says the Governor's order limiting theatres to 15% capacity in hopes of restarting was a nice gesture but he said “15% capacity from a financial standpoint doesn't change anything... it's just not financially feasible to do shows.” 

CAPA says money isn't the only issue, consumer confidence must also be restored. 

“If the Governor came out tomorrow and said 'you can do whatever you want' the audiences aren't going to come back anyway and we wouldn't want them to...  2,800 people in the Ohio Theatre right now in the way we feel is safe? The answer to that is no,” says Whittington.

The Ohio Citizens for the Arts believes if federal or state money isn't committed to the arts industry, they may not return.

 “If we don't step in quickly the boards that have been up on the Ohio Theatre since May could very well be up for years to come,” says Meleca.

CAPA is hoping Broadway shows can return to Columbus in March or April of next year.