There's a growing trend of cities and towns across the country that are proving that the show must (safely) go on, even during a pandemic There's no fair happening at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix this year, but organizers did kick off the "Concerts in Your Car" series in October. It's an outdoor show format produced by CBF Productions that got its start in Ventura, California, back in June, and it has also taken off in San Diego.
Admission is $99-$249 per car (eight people maximum); the pricier tickets get to park the closest to the stage. Concertgoers must wear masks and observe social distancing. In addition to rocking out with the likes of Sublime on a Friday or Saturday night, visitors can get their corn dog and funnel cake fix with the drive-thru fair food series, taking place from Thursday through Sunday.
The new normal for entertainment
This and other socially distant outdoor events popping up across the country is all very good news for a country very much starved for live entertainment. With theaters and concert halls shuttered for entire seasons, music lovers are growing accustomed to getting their groove on however they can.
Of course, outdoor concerts are not a new thing. But gone are the days of cramming people in shoulder to shoulder at a festival stage. Concert promoters these days are instead looking for lots of flat space for cars to pull up for drive-in concerts. And yes, drive-in movies have also made a return. In Los Lunas, New Mexico, an old BMX track is currently under construction and will one day be taking another lap as a drive-in theater.
What it means for investors
It is without question that hospitality REITs have been hit hard during this pandemic. Broadway is dark, as are countless other theaters across the country. Concert tours have been canceled, with musicians appeasing fans through livestreams. Movie releases are getting pushed back, then back again.
Investors spent a ton of money in upgrading concert venues in 2019. Of course, if they had seen the pandemic coming, they would have likely looked toward revitalizing outdoor space, like fairgrounds.
Indeed, Governor Andrew Cuomo has already invested over $120 million in the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse since 2015. Of course, that was all before COVID and the six-foot rule of social distancing. It's not likely the fairgrounds will be as packed as investors hoped they would be, but upgrading and maintaining fairgrounds is a good thing.
Fairgrounds are an ideal spot for outdoor concerts because of all that space, but what about other places with prime parking? Should suburban movie theaters that can't reopen in a timely manner put up a huge screen or stage in the parking lot and turn it into a new entertainment venue? What about vacant store parking lots? Like everyone else during this time, investors need to think outside the box -- and outside the theater.
Not ready to take a bow
As COVID cases spike again, it seems less and less likely that we'll be enjoying live music indoors any time soon. And even outdoor concerts come with their own attendee restrictions. But with concertgoers safely social distancing and enjoying the tunes from their parked cars, the show could very well go on.