The historic snowstorm that shut down the District this weekend dealt a severe blow to arts groups, who were forced to cancel dozens of performances, racking up millions of dollars in lost revenue in the process.
The Kennedy Center alone canceled 21 performances during a typically busy midwinter weekend. Five performances of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” and four of the National Ballet of Canada’s “The Winter’s Tale” were called off, accounting for many of the 13,000 tickets sold to shows that eventually were canceled.
Neither show could be extended.
“It’s very, very unfortunate,” Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said. “We’re talking nearly a million dollars, and we don’t have an opportunity this season to make it up. This has a serious impact.”
Bad weather is always a risk for arts organizations, but the monster storm was especially damaging because it hit on a weekend — when more shows are scheduled — and lasted several days. It also scuttled several popular performances, making rescheduling patrons much more tricky.
Most shows returned Tuesday, including “Gentleman’s Guide,” which continues through Saturday. But the remaining performances are close to capacity, and with only a handful of tickets available for each show this week, most ticket holders will be shut out, Rutter said. The ballet company is already on its way to the next city, making it impossible to add shows.
Rutter said some ticket holders will opt for a gift certificate that can be used for a future performance, and some will book future performances immediately. But most will ask for refunds.
“There’s that lost moment, the immediacy of it,” Rutter said. “Most of what we do we can’t reschedule.”
The timing was difficult for Signature Theatre in Arlington, too, where “West Side Story” had been extended to Sunday because of popular demand. Five sold-out performances were canceled from Friday through Sunday. Signature also canceled four performances of “Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose,” which runs through Feb. 7.
Wednesday and Thursday matinees of “West Side Story” have been added to the run’s final week, and box office and marketing staff are trying to reschedule as many patrons as possible, said spokesman James Gardiner. But midweek afternoon performances are not convenient for most patrons, he conceded, and the rest of the shows are full.
“Georgie” has two more weeks in its run, so its ticket holders are more likely to reschedule. Signature offers refunds, gift certificates, the donation of tickets back to the theater (for patrons to receive a tax deduction) and exchanges for future performances of another show.
“We’re not totally sure yet what the financial implications are,” he said. “I don’t remember anything quite like this.”
It was a similar scenario at Studio Theatre near Logan Circle, which canceled nine performances of two shows, including the popular “Bad Jews,” a production that ends Sunday. The other show, “Between Riverside and Crazy,” is scheduled to run through Feb. 28.
Arena Stage hosted the press opening of Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat” on Thursday before canceling the next five performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some 2,300 people were expected for the weekend performances. Arena has added two performances — matinees Feb. 7 and 14 — and hopes to reschedule most of the patrons in those and other performances. The show runs through Feb. 21.
The National Symphony Orchestra concerts were part of the Kennedy Center cancellations, as was the Sunday afternoon concert featuring violist Nadia Sirota at the Phillips Collection. Wolf Trap was lucky — it was able to reschedule the three nearly sold-out performances in the Barns. A spokeswoman said all of the 1,100 patrons expected at the shows were contacted in advance.
The Folger Consort called off its Friday and Saturday night performances at Washington National Cathedral. Some 2,000 people were expected for those concerts, which launched “The Wonder of Will,” a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Folger officials decided to perform a concert Thursday night in advance of the storm, and some 300 attended.
“It didn’t go into thin air,” Folger’s assistant artistic producer Beth Emelson said about the event. “To not have either of the two performances would have meant that it never happened.”
Emelson said the box office staff are contacting patrons and offering gift certificates and ticket exchanges as well as refunds. It is still too early to estimate the financial drain from the cancellations.
Ford’s Theatre canceled three preview performances of “The Glass Menagerie” leading up to this week’s opening. The theater offered a free performance Monday night as a chance for locals to get out of the house and the actors to get back in front of an audience.
Ford’s Theatre director Paul R. Tetreault said the storm hit all groups hard. “It’s been tough for all of us,” he said. “We try to do the best we can to get our audiences and actors together and get up and running.”