If the Show Can't Go On - Will You Recover?

Winter Storm Jonas 2016 hits box office hard

As the east coast braced for Winter Storm Jonas the weekend of January 22, 2016, presenters and artists with scheduled events were faced with the questions: “What is our cancellation policy? Are we ready to put it into action? Can we survive the possible financial impact?” Those with clear cancellation plans did not have to create one at last minute, and only needed to implement it, giving them a jump start on the ultimate goal of mitigating losses.

Whether in New York City, Washington D.C., or Atlanta, presenters and artists throughout the east and southern regions, who were scheduled to put on performances, lost millions as facilities were shut down and shows were cancelled. According to the Broadway League, which publishes weekly box office grosses, the New York theatre industry alone lost $10 million that weekend compared to the previous weekend’s report. Washington D.C. which was hit by the center of the storm also lost several million.

While we at ArtsReady know that full financial recovery is not possible for all organizations and artists, we also know that losses can be minimized if a clear policy is in place that outlines to ticket holders what will happen if a show is cancelled. Being able to place attention primarily on rescheduling performances instead of scrambling to calm patrons, can not only sustain your operation financially but also sustain your reputation – both of which are critical to keeping your doors open following a crisis.

In addition to a Performance Cancellation policy for ticket holders, presenters should also have a Force Majeure policy for artists and their agents, and a Facility Shutdown policy for its staff and interns. The need and requirement for Event Insurance should also be considered, especially for larger productions. Artists and agents should understand all policies associated with the unexpected shutdown of the facility that they are contracted to perform in, and should request amendments to contracts whenever the presenters’ policies do not line up with their own.

Last but not least, the effectiveness of cancellation plans are enhanced tremendously if adequate training and drills are implemented. After all, we in the performing arts understand that rehearsing is fundamental, right?

Everyone dreads show cancellations – we at ArtsReady fully understands that. What we also understand is that this type of stuff has and will continue to happen, and that having a response plan in place will improve the level of recovery.


Omar Nelson



Critical Function



performance cancellations policy, facility shutdowns, Winter Storm Jonas 2016

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