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Well, 2020 has been off to a strange start. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public gatherings screeched to a halt, Broadway went dark, families went inside. Things got slower, quieter and more insular. At Adage, our downtown office closed and we’ve been working remotely since the middle of March.

For the Adage SmartSeatTM team we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our entertainment clients. For the performing arts sector, reopening is a multifaceted issue: older patrons make up the majority group of supporters, performers can’t social distance on stage, without funds the already aching sector hangs in the balance. Can these venues ethically reopen? If they don’t, will they be able to recover?

While this is an unprecedented time for us, it isn’t singular in history. Even while the plague raged during the European Dark Ages, there were public performances. The Chicago Tribune notes how organizations can repurpose what worked in those times, for instance, : favor simple shows — an acoustic concert, a chamber opera, a small cast, improvisation. Creating portable works, and utilizing outdoor spaces is another way to allow the show to go on.

Eventually, a vaccine will erase worry of bodies packed into thousand-person concerts, of sharing an armrest in the orchestra section, of bunching up to get a view at the newest art exhibit – but before that return to “normal”, there will be a transition period, and we predict social distancing will be a key in the months to come.

What social distancing can look like in performing arts venues.


Since our product focuses on seating public gatherings, our team has been workshopping what social distancing can look like in performing arts venues and how we can help keep people safe.

And since we’re a web development company, we created a plan to automate it.

Selecting Seats, Then Creating Social Distance

A mostly empty venue with a single person seated

Assuming venues will initially reopen with limited capacity, there are a few different ways social distancing could be applied to venues – some manual and some automated.

We got our product team together for a brainstorm and came up with a few different options.

Option 1: Create a socially distanced venue

Automation Score: Low

Organizations can create an updated seat map in Tessitura using hold codes to manually place available/unavailable seats in a socially distanced pattern. Every production would have the same seats available for purchase. This does not require any code, just an updated seat map. The downside to this option is having to guess what the right purchase size is and create a layout that maximizes group size and distance.

Option 2: Add social distance requirement validation

Automation Score: Medium

Organizations show ALL seats as available but add a message alerting customers not to sit next to others. On the back end, we’d add validation code to ensure no seats are reserved next to other reserved seats. This would utilize SmartSeatTM current validation for orphan seats as a starting point. Using the messaging from the orphan seat functionality, organizations could use that message field to tell customers to leave an open seat next to theirs, and if they don’t, they will not be able to check out and leave the seat map page.

Option 3: Apply holds to adjacent seats

Automation Score: High

Using the Tessitura API, SmartSeatTM would apply hold codes to the seat map after a customer reserves a seat – or multiple seats – to the seats surrounding their selections (left, right, in front and behind). As customers purchase seats, SmartSeatTM eliminates these barrier seats in real-time, so as new customers arrive on the map they will see large sections of unavailable seats. It’s reminiscent of Minesweeper where selecting one seat eliminates a whole group of seats.

Product Architect Ian Xu thinks this is the best option for SmartSeatTM clients and offers the most relief for the box office team.

What is your organization predicting for this transitionary period?

Can you see trying to implement something like this in your venues or will you rely on a more manual process? Do you predict you will have these smaller openings? Any ideas on when?


This Has Never Been Done Before

This will require collaboration, creativity and lots of trying things out.

Let us know if you’re interested in joining a brainstorming conversation on how Social Distancing can be added to SmartSeatTM.

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