Half-empty museums and theaters: where is the cultural audience?

Half-empty museums and theaters: where is the cultural audience?
Cinemas and theaters are not as full as they were before Corona.  ANP . image

Cinemas and theaters are not as full as they were before Corona.ANP . image

In fact, this month is perfect for going to the museum. or for a theatrical performance. It’s not crowded, but it’s not as empty as it is right after the aura. You often have almost room to look at a painting in peace, and in the theater you can leave your bag on the seat next to you.

irregular picture

But this space is by no means good news for the cultural sector. A month after reopening Visitor numbers were disappointing. After two months the picture is a little better, but the old normal is out of reach. However, the picture is erratic: Melkweg has always sold out in recent weeks, but the previously successful music evenings at the Bijlmerpark Theater are only half-full and the DeLaMar Theater also isn’t seeing the recovery it had hoped for. How did this happen? Is the fear of corona still practicing tricks on visitors?

According to market researcher Hendrik Berda, the older visitor is still already suffering from a fear of corona, but there is more to it: “In times of Corona, people have acquired other interests. Cultural visits are out of their pattern.” And he stresses that because of all the Corona lockdowns, the show has been confusing: people no longer know what to do. “There was a cadence in the show, which was disrupted. People don’t have their consistent pattern of subscriptions and seasonal brochures—these are critical ingredients for the success of theater and nightclubs, for example.” High inflation doesn’t help and visitors are watching their money.

in the dark

Cultural institutions grope in the dark why one thing works and the other doesn’t. the offer Glifov At the Bijlmerpark مسرح It’s been packed for two weeks, says director Jolanda Spoel, but other products aren’t going so well. Flush can only guess the reasons. “Steady evenings don’t go well, soap operas do.” She sees through her own agenda that the show has been overwhelming since the cultural sector reopened in February. There is a stock of offers. Everything that cannot run at the time of Corona is suspended, so everyone is programming themselves. This way you spread the public to many sites.”

Cinemas have benefited from a huge turnout such as Spider-Man: There is no room for homeBut moviegoers don’t go as often as they did before Corona, as Boris van der Hamm of the Dutch Association of Film Operators (Nvbf) knows.

Museums are waiting for recovery. The director of the Amsterdam Museum Gudekje Kers sees that the tourists are still missing. The Amsterdam Museum was recently moved temporarily from the Kalverstraat to the Hermitage aan de Amstel building, so the time period is shorter anyway. Regardless of this comment, we do note that people come back to visit again in a healing manner. They prefer to hold temporary exhibitions, because permanent exhibitions are always possible. And we’ve had everything in place for at least six months.”


It is suggested here and there that practical issues such as fear of Corona, expensive tickets, too much viewing and a crowded schedule are not the only cause for concern. There is also something to complain about in terms of content.

Andreas Fleischmann, director of DeLaMar, thinks programming is sometimes too conservative. “The new business is having a hard time because the audience is choosing the things they think they will enjoy. The danger is that your show will not match what the new generation needs.”

Marga Krudsma, Veem House’s director of choreography and performance, fears that focusing on great successes will create a monoculture. “You don’t just want to make folk art to just attract that audience. You also need to take your audience seriously and challenge them and get them to think. There has to be room for initial experience.”

click pressure

Financially, it’s exciting for many organizations. Corona support has almost stopped, but costs for gas, light and staff are rising, while no one wants to make tickets more expensive with these visitor numbers.

The good news came last week when Foreign Minister Güney Oslo (Culture) An additional package of 135 million euros has been announced† There is also space for young makers and freelance producers and €5 million for campaigns and for culture on TV, as a much-needed whip to win back the audience.

Director Laura Vogelsang says Melkweg is not alarmed by the dip in interest. The only real difference with pre-Corona times has nothing to do with the number of visitors: “The young people have not been able to go out for two years. The new crop really needs to know this: they get drunk very, very quickly.”

Reader responses

Het Parol asked readers why they or didn’t go to cultural events (again). The response was overwhelming, with more than two thousand answers. Several readers wrote that they go lower than before. The reasons for their reluctance are fear of corona, new hobbies, but also “less annoying than fomo” or: “I think it’s too expensive”.

On the other hand, other readers went more often. One wrote: “I had so much to realize, I couldn’t wait.”

Few people cite laziness as the reason, there is no time, or I don’t like crowded places anymore. A particular group calls the QR code, which has been mandatory in the cultural sector for some time, as discriminatory. “They excluded me, now I exclude them.”

In terms of content, readers here and there also have something to say about programming. “The show is less attractive. Little variety: often the same story is told,” one reader writes. “There is so much on offer but so little interest.” And sometimes the reason is very practical: “I had a baby during Corona time.”

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