Art troupes in China turn to online platforms to survive COVID-19 downturn

COVID-19 took the spotlight away from the performance industry, but the show must go on, even if in a different format. Chinese art troupes and organizations are now going online to stage performances.

"We're all very excited about the first show after our work resumption. This is the first time in my art career life that I haven't interacted with my audiences face-to-face for so long," said Chi Xiaoqiu, a leading artist of Peking Opera.

The performance industry is still struggling with a downturn in income. Around 40,000 shows were canceled in the first quarter of 2020, with losses to the tune of 574 million U.S. dollars.

"The 30-percent requirement on spectator numbers means a huge pressure for the performance industry, because the break-even point of the industry won't come until attendances of a venue reaches around 60 to 70 percent. The confidence in the market needs to be built step by step," said Zhang Haijun, president of the Beijing Trade Association for Performances.

Most restarted shows are non-profit and warm-up projects, and many artists have found a new stage on social media platforms.

"Although we're still based on the stage where we can meet audiences face to face, online platforms offer us a new opportunity for the development, which I believe will deeply influence the performance market in the future," said Pan Yan, secretary general of the China Association of Performing Arts.