LA Phil loses $80 million by shutting Hollywood Bowl

LA Phil loses $80 million by shutting Hollywood Bowl


norman lebrecht

May 14, 2020

The orchestra confirmed last night that the Bowl stays shut for the summer and its orchestra has been put on furlough.

The LA Phil estimates that revenues lost from these canceled concerts, as well as a portion of the orchestra’s spring season, will result in a roughly $80M budget shortfall. To mitigate these losses, the LA Phil must now take additional steps to address the financial impact caused by the pandemic and is furloughing approximately 25% of its full-time non-union workforce, as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra through September 30, 2020, and is laying off seasonal Hollywood Bowl employees. 



  • sam says:

    So simple, just have Trump declare classical musicians essential workers and force the sector to reopen.

    Or have armed militias come and occupy the Hollywood Bowl to keep it open (no doubt armed militias listen to Wagner).

  • drummerman says:

    One wonders how much the Boston Symphony will lose by shutting down Tanglewood.

  • Wimps and Cowards says:

    Wimps. Cowards. This is exactly the venue where social distancing could have been accomplished in an open air environment! Vision less leadership which deserves the losses it has inflicted on itself.

    Performing arts have shown they are non-essential and deserve to suffer even more.

    • John Kelly says:


    • D says:

      Let’s go over this again: With, say, only 25% of seats available in a socially distanced configuration, box office revenues will be severely diminished from their usual potential. However, the operating expenses of opening and running a venue do not decrease commensurate with the diminished box office potential. Margins are already relatively slim; it would be financially ruinous to run a venue at 25% capacity or less.

      • Arthur says:

        Exactly. And it’s likely not only a 75% reduction in sales, since to admit 25% of a capacity audience will require investment in social distancing measures, equipment, signage, whatever disinfection stations are the panacea of the moment etc etc. These costs will stay in place as long as social distancing stays in place. So again, forget about returning to “before”.

      • Larry says:

        There would most likely be more than 25% of the seats available since I’m sure that most patrons buy tickets in pairs. Therefore, the 2 people (spouse, partner, significant other, etc.) would sit side by side like usual, with maybe 1 empty seat on either side of them. (I’m guessing but I think that makes some sense.) Nevertheless, the orchestra would be just as big a problem since they obviously can not play 6 feet apart from each other.

        • D says:

          A fair point, and the various reopening models do account for such groupings. But remember that socially distanced seating will alternate empty rows with occupied rows, which will already wipe out 50% of the seats. And most models call for minimally two empty seats on either side of an occupied pair. The revenue projections are sobering, and require wholesale rethinking of artistic plans.

        • Marc says:

          Maybe you’ve never been to the Bowl. Here’s the layout: up front, rows of reserved and rather cramped box seats, each self-contained, with chairs for four guests, along with their wine bottles and picnic baskets – ideal for partying, schmoozing and gossiping. Social distancing? Forget it. Those boxes are backed by rows and rows of long benches, marked with numbered slots. No way to keep audience members distanced, if they prefer to slide together. Capacity would be greatly reduced, of course, with matching revenue loss. And let’s think for a moment about the orchestra: Yes, it would be a spatially separated mini-band. Who would pay to hear a chamber version of Tchaikovsky’s “1812” or Handel’s enormous “Royal Fireworks,” longtime Bowl staples traditionally accompanied by pyrotechnics? I know everyone wants to hear big orchestras play live, and a lot of folks sure are trying to come up with acceptable substitutes. But there are none, sadly. Years ago, an official of the LA Phil told me that the Bowl season is what balances the books. Probably true for other bands relying on large attendance at pops-flavored summer festivals. Worrisome, to say the least.

      • Tuba Minimum says:

        I’ve been to the Bowl numerous times. I think the bigger issue than where people sit is how they get there, use the bathroom, etc. There are so many choke points in an amphitheater.

      • Bill says:

        If anything, it will be more expensive to open the venue because of all of the extra personnel and precautions needed to make it workable. Not to mention liability if someone gets sick. I’m sure the legal department and their insurance carrier had something to say about it.

    • Tuba Minimum says:

      Okay. Let’s not waste time arguing about acceptable risk (which I think you and I look at quite differently) and just look at two key points.

      1. It wouldn’t be legal for them to put on a concert regardless. That venue is owned by the local governments who are saying concerts aren’t going to be on the table. If you decide to go rogue and put on a show anyway to make some idiotic point, that relationship is over, and you are getting kicked out of both the local government owned Hollywood Bowl and Disney Hall.

      2. Do you have any idea the legal liability you’d be inviting while not making a profit on shows? All it takes is one bad night where someone infects others at the concession stand. Or maybe someone catches it elsewhere but happened to have gone to a concert recently and assume that is where they got it. A few wrongful death lawsuits and that endowment is toast.

    • Bill says:

      You go first, tough guy…I’ll try and say nice things about you at your funeral

  • Freddynyc says:

    So are musicians from our orchestras being paid amid all this….?

  • M2N2K says:

    My favorite kind of commenters are those who specialize in name calling when accusing others of cowardice while remaining anonymous by hiding behind pseudonyms that describe such accusers far more precisely than they do those they are accusing. As for the substance of the argument, W&C showed complete ignorance of the subject which was shown convincingly by several perfectly reasonable comments above here.