As expected, the Hollywood Bowl has officially canceled its summer season, for the first time in its nearly century-long history, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association confirmed in an announcement early Wednesday afternoon.
The countdown to the LA Phil making an announcement has been inevitable, with the org appearing to want to cancel the entire season in whole, rather than piecemeal, once California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, made it clear he didn’t see concerts resuming in the state before next year.
In a statement announcing the mass cancellation, the Philharmonic Association spoke of the devastating financial losses it will take, citing a budget shortfall of about $80 million it expects to see as a result of its three venues — the Bowl, the nearby Ford and downtown’s Walt Disney Hall — all going dark this year.
“This decision makes me heartsick for all the county residents who have made the Bowl and the Ford a treasured ritual of each summer, although this is the best decision to make in the face of the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in a statement.
News that a Bowl announcement was imminent became clear when Brandi Carlile, who was supposed to headline the season’s official opening night with an orchestral show June 13, took to Twitter last week to run through a list of cancellations of her summer shows except for the Bowl, news of which she said would be forthcoming this week.
No information on refunds has been released. The official announcement did say that “Hollywood Bowl ticketholders will have the option of supporting what has been a summertime tradition for generations of Los Angeles families by donating the value of their tickets back to the LA Phil,” in hopes of making a dent in the estimated $80 million shortfall. An email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) was given “for information about donating to the LA Phil or how to manage your tickets,” although, with tens of thousands of disappointed ticketholders likely to be deluging that address for details, clearly more information will be forthcoming.
The Phil appeared to have been taken by surprise by word getting out via a report from the Los Angeles Times late Wednesday morning, before the organization had a chance to update its website or make the announcement itself. Even after the LA Phil followed up on the Times’ story by quickly confirming the news in a press release, tickets for dozens of upcoming shows were still available through Ticketmaster and the Bowl’s website, including concerts coming up as quickly as two weeks from now, when Daryl Hall and John Oates were scheduled to play May 29.
When the Disney Hall season was canceled in early April, the Philharmonic Association laid off its part-time workers and reduced salaries by 35% in aggregate. In announcing the Bowl and Ford season cancellations Wednesday, the organization announced additional immediate cost-cutting measures, saying that it was “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.”
Several artists scheduled to play this summer had already canceled their entire tours, including Bob Dylan, who officially announced Tuesday that all his 2020 shows were being nixed, including his June 18 show at the Bowl. Others who had canceled entire outings included Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Lady Antebellum, Halsey and Ozzy Osbourne. Yet concerts like the Playboy Jazz Festival June 6-7, Steely Dan June 8, the July 4th fireworks spectacular with the Beach Boys and dozens of shows stretching into September remained up for sale even as the LA Phil confirmed the news.
“The cancellation of our summer programs and the resulting impact on our musicians and staff is devastating,” said Philharmonic Association CEO Chad Smith. “We are all broken-hearted by the effects of this crisis and share the disappointment of all those who look forward to the Bowl and Ford seasons every year. As we deal with this public health emergency, our task now, which we share with all of Los Angeles, is to go forward with strength and resilience, knowing we will get through this with one another’s help. The LA Phil has been here for more than 100 years, and the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford for almost as long. We are doing what is necessary to ensure that we are all here for the next century.”
The Association has launched t“Play Your Part,” described as a $35 million campaign to support its ongoing operations and programs, including the YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) program and other educational endeavors.