Local theaters preparing for large demand when COVID-19 restrictions loosen

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — As the pandemic rages on, order has been restored in many industries. However, live entertainment has yet to bounce back.

Despite many obstacles, indoor entertainment centers are looking into ways to safely bring audiences back sooner than later.

“Our business is in a little bit different spot than bars and restaurants and things of that nature. With the limit on gatherings, having an audience just isn’t practical right now,” says Craig Thomas, the RAVE Board Chairman.

While many businesses have welcomed back customers during Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, live entertainment venues including the BMO Harris Bank Center and Coronado Performing Arts Center in downtown Rockford have been forced to stay closed.

“Unfortunately, in our business, we don’t operate at reduced revenue, we operate at basically no revenue right now,” Thomas said. “From a ticketing perspective, from a selling food perspective, all that revenue is gone.”

Craig Thomas from the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority, which operates the two venues, says the American Hockey League is currently discussing a plan that would see the Rockford Icehogs return to the BMO before the end of 2020.

“That may be a bit optimistic at this point in time, but that’s a possibility. We do have some performances, non-hockey related performances on the books from entertainers, so we’re hopeful that sometime near the end of the year or shortly thereafter that we’ll be able to have some activities in the venues,” he added.

Beth Howard, the executive director of the ‘Friends of the Coronado’ non-profit says people are craving live entertainment right now. She is confident people will flock to the theater when it reopens.

“The minute it’s all declared safe, we’ll have a lot of people anxious to come back and be a part of the Coronado,” Howard said.

“We think there is definitely a desire for people to get out and connect in that live entertainment arena again, which is something you really can’t get anywhere else,” added Thomas.

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