A Different Way: Reopening Performing Arts Venues in a Lingering Pandemic

Blog Post
Peter George
Chief Executive Officer

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Publish date

Sep 17, 2021

As a native Bostonian who loves the arts, the incredible performances at the Wang Theatre and Shubert Theatre feel like they have always been part of my life. I've enjoyed countless musicals, symphonies, ballet, and concerts at these iconic hometown venues. Their pandemic shutdown was a sad moment for me, but my feelings were nothing compared to the seemingly bottomless crisis experienced by all the talent, staff, and management who make these venues such magical places. That’s why I am so incredibly excited to see these theaters reopening this weekend using Evolv Express® as a key part of their health and safety plan. Working with the Boch Center, which manages both venues, to make this happen has been incredibly satisfying. 

Performing arts centers have always been a core segment of our business, starting with our early success in New York at Lincoln Center and later at the Phillips Center, the Kravis Center, the Fox Theatre, the Paramount Theatre, and many others. It feels great to finally have our technology protecting visitors at the Wang and Shubert on our home turf here in Boston.  

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the performing arts sector in the United States normally accounts for $13 billion dollars of economic value add and employs over 120,000 people across over 8000 businesses. But that all came crashing down with COVID-19. Performing arts centers were forced to close indefinitely and slashed their employees by half or more, with the remaining staff often on reduced wages. When they finally were able to reopen in the pre-vaccine period, severe restrictions hobbled their operations. They used their core creative talents to cope as best they could, but everyone knows that a full return to normal is the only way to get the industry back on its feet. Even now that full reopening is finally becoming possible, the landscape feels changed and there is still a lot of uncertainty. 

The security challenge for performing arts venue is tricky in the best of times, and the pandemic has obviously made it even more complex. These venues often have a very limited number of narrow entrances opening directly onto city streets with crowds arriving rapidly right before showtime. We've all been there: rushing down the street from some theater district restaurant to get to the venue at the last minute. Using walkthrough metal detectors and manual bag inspections during the last-minute rush typically leaves huge crowds on the streets outside the building, creating an incredibly vulnerable soft target.  

The pandemic only increased the threat of crowded entrances at theaters. Few visitors are OK with being jammed in close with people they don't know and whose vaccination status has not yet been verified. It's unsafe, unpleasant, and unacceptable, especially when it's happening in a space that is all about having great experiences. The incongruity of it all is not lost on visitors, many of whom are still sorting through their pandemic anxieties.  

In my conversations with the Boch Center team and other customers, it has become clear that they are concerned about these issues. Re-opening with the old procedures is just a non-starter. Returning arts patrons are looking for visible signs that the venues are safe. Giving them the same old entrance melee just doesn't feel right, especially in an industry that is all about experiences. Joe Spalding, CEO of the Boch Center told me that he knew they needed to have people return in a different way, and we're incredibly happy that Evolv Express is now part of that new way, along with new air filtration systems, vaccination verification, and other best practices.  

The federal government has stepped up to help the performing arts with $75 million in new funding to the National Endowment for the Arts in the 2020 CARES Act and an additional $135 million in the March 2021 American Rescue Plan. This money is already flowing into performing arts venues to help fund investments in technology that both facilitate a safe reopening, including new security screening technology. It's money well spent because a feeling of safety and security is vital to getting the economy, and our lives, back on track.  

Both of the Boch Center properties in Boston are opening this Saturday 18 September with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the Wang Theatre and Manuel Turizo at the Shubert Theatre. If you are in Boston this weekend, come join me at one of these venues. I'll be helping with the deployment of our Express systems. If you see me, just wave as you walk right in without stopping, emptying your pockets, or surrendering your bag, and enjoy the show, safely! 

Peter George
Chief Executive Officer

Peter G. George has been Evolv’s Chief Executive Officer since January 2020. Prior to assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer at Evolv, Mr. George served as Chief Commercial Officer of Evolv from February 2019 to December 2019. Prior to joining Evolv, Mr. George served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Fidelis Cybersecurity, a company focused on threat and data breach detection, from March 2008 to August 2019. Mr. George also served as the Chief Executive Officer of Empow Cybersecurity, a company offering intelligent, AI and natural language processing solutions to reduce false positives during threat detection, from March 2018 to November 2018. Mr. George serves on the Board of Directors of Corero Network Security PLC (LON: CNS), including its Compensation Committee, since January 2019. Mr. George received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981.