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Florida theaters losing money even though they can reopen

Many theatergoers still uncomfortable returning to shows
Posted at 12:08 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 00:08:42-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — As more businesses continue to reopen and reemerge from pandemic closures, some industries face unique challenges.

In the 20 years since Palm Beach Dramaworks opened its doors, this is the longest it has been closed.

"Things were going really well, unfortunately things came to a halt on March 16. We had to send our cast home that was here rehearsing for "Lights in the Piazza," co-founder Sue Ellen Beryl said.

Since that time, Beryl said they have made no money.

"We've always been in the black year after year, which has enabled us to have a nice reserve fund that we're depending on now," she said.

The pandemic shut every theater down, but Gov. Ron DeSantis' recent reopening announcement has done little to change Beryl's reality.

"And some of that is for two reasons, one is we don't feel our audience is ready to come back. You just don't want to sit right next to someone. And on top of that our artists are members of the union and the union is not offering contracts right now," she said.

The feelings of theatergoers are mixed.

"I don't feel safe enough," one woman said.

While another woman felt differently.

"Yes, I would absolutely go to the theater," she said.

Beryl said throughout the pandemic they have moved their performance space online offering readings of brand-new plays weekly to interviews with the theater community.

"But unfortunately, no in-person performances at this time," she said.

But all is not lost, Dramaworks has planned a full season starting in October 2021.