Hollywood Bowl and The Ford Will Reopen in May With Limited Capacities

Hollywood Bowl
Adam Latham

Hollywood Bowl

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association has announced that it will reopen its outdoor concert venues – the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford – for the 2021 season. To kick off the reopening, the LA Phil will host four free concerts for healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers "as a gesture of thanks for all they have done for Los Angeles throughout the pandemic."

Beginning in July, the Hollywood Bowl will present 14 weeks of concerts including crowd favorites such as Fourth of July fireworks, Tchaikovsky Spectacular, and Sing-A-Long Sound of Music. Detailed information on programming, dates, and ticketing for the Hollywood Bowl will be announced May 11 and for The Ford May 25.

Based on Los Angeles County Public Health guidance, the Hollywood Bowl will be able to welcome a limited-capacity audience of approximately 4,000 when concerts resume beginning in May and anticipates ramping up to greater capacity later in the summer as guidelines evolve.

“The fact that we are now able to give concerts, even for limited audiences, we feel it's our responsibility as the stewards of these two important venues to welcome audiences back,” says Los Angeles Philharmonic CEO and the David C. Bohnett CEO chair Chad Smith.

The Hollywood Bowl can welcome up to 17,500 guests but California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening framework asks venues to limit capacities to limit possible COVID exposure. As of today, Los Angeles County falls in the orange tier which allows outdoor venues to host fans at 33% capacity or 67% capacity if all guests show a negative test result within the 72 hours prior to attendance or show proof of full vaccination.

“Even if it is a significant loss and it will be right to open these venues. It's tremendously expensive,” Smith tells Billboard. “But again, it's an investment that we feel that we need to make because of our commitment to this community.”

The LA Phil is a non-profit organization that also operates the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and is getting help underwriting three of the first events from sponsor Kaiser Permanente. They will include performances by Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil (May 15 & 22) playing repertoire from Beethoven to Marquez, with artists to be announced for the third event (June 26). The fourth free concert will be with LA artists Thundercat and Flying Lotus on June 12. The May 15 performance will mark the first public performance at the Bowl in 18 months.

Due to the rapid vaccine rollout in the state, Governor Gavin Newsom announced on April 6 that he foresees the state moving "beyond" the blueprint tier system and lifting all restrictions on businesses by June 15. Smith says the LA Phil is actively making adjustments to the schedule to accommodate the Governor’s announcement.

"Even if it is a significant loss and it will be right to open these venues. It's tremendously expensive," Smith tells Billboard. "But again, it's an investment that we feel that we need to make because of our commitment to this community."

The Ford’s season, featuring a rich diversity of local and regional Southern California artists, will open in late July and run for 15 weeks. The LA Phil states, “The Ford is committed to representing Los Angeles County on its stage and in its audience and has made 20% of its performances free to the public.” The 1,200-capacity amphitheater is one of the oldest venues in Los Angeles dating back to 1920.

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Smith says he still anticipates some new state and local safety guidelines such as mask mandates even after the Bowl is back to full capacity. For the time being, guests will be socially-distanced and food and beverage will need to be delivered to fans at their seats to avoid crowding at any stations.

"We know that our audiences are at different places in their comfort levels. We want to do everything we can to ensure that our audiences feel safe when they come to our venues," says Smith. "We have to be open to the possibility that things will feel very different than today."

Smith adds that he expects the Bowl will gradually increase the audience at the venues throughout spring and hopes to see the iconic spaces at full capacity by summer.