Investor News September 2, 2020

The Show Must Go On

Tom Gabbard, CEO, Blumenthal Performing Arts

When the coronavirus hit, venues like the Blumenthal around the world were among the first to shut down.  We will be among the last to fully reopen.  And yet, I believe there is reason for hope.

My father and two uncles were career NASA employees.  I grew up believing that smart people with resources and time could achieve audacious things like landing a man on the moon.  The same is true today that smart minds will provide solutions to find our way out of this mess.

Early in the crisis we learned that Seoul Korea was the one place where big musicals, like Phantom of the Opera, continued to play during the pandemic without social distancing.  That prompted weeks of learning about their strategies.  Much of what we learned from Seoul will improve our venue operations for years to come.

I joined a COVID Theater Think Tank with members from around the world that studied things like air flow in theaters.  It gave us new appreciation for the importance of increasing fresh air and circulation in creating healthy buildings, and will improve our venues long-term.

Our networking connected us to Dr. Robby Sikka, head of testing for the NBA since our interests are much the same.  We both care about protecting athletes/artists, as well as our fans.  Dr. Sikka introduced us to a saliva test developed at Yale.

Over the last three months we have focused on rapid testing solutions.  Rapid tests will be the key to reopening and finding a way to live with the virus.  These are cheap tests that take 15 minutes or less for a result, (like a pregnancy test) and are done regularly, ideally every day or so.

Rapid tests are less invasive and include mouth swabs, spitting in a tube or a finger prick.  We’ve done zoom calls with teams in Israel and Finland who are finishing work on breath analyzers that give results in 15 seconds. 

The virus has devastated my industry with the closure of Broadway and all touring.  We need to safely get people back to work.  I see solutions that will help us do that.

When we do reopen, our venues and how we operate them will be healthier than ever.  And with rapid testing, we’ll soon have a way for actors, musicians, crews, and audiences to safely be together again.

I can’t wait to see you back at a show.

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Tom Gabbard, CEO, Blumenthal Performing Arts