The Henry Ford is seeing about 15,000 visitors per week, compared to 51,000 per week last year, President and CEO Patricia Mooradian said in an emailed statement. The weekly reduction is due to capacity constraints, the continued closures of some of its venues and elimination of large events.
It’s continuing to operate at 25 percent capacity in order to follow state guidelines for the safety and well-being of staff and guests, she said. But since reopening July 2, The Henry Ford has made gradual changes in its operations.
“The Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” exhibit has sold out every weekend since its July 16 opening, Mooradian said. The exhibition features more than 300 original artifacts, including Marvel’s earliest comic book, iconic props and costumes from film favorites, rare, hand-drawn images of iconic heroes by the artists who first designed them and more.
Given its popularity, “we were able to return Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation back to its normal, seven-day operation,” she said.
Greenfield Village continues to be open Thursday-Sunday only due to the high operating costs. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour, Giant Screen Experience and Benson Ford Research Center remain closed as the nonprofit continues to evaluate safe reopening protocols. Several rides, restaurants and retail operations are open; however, many remain closed, which impacts its opportunity to earn revenue, Mooradian said.
“While we are covering our incremental reopening costs, we are still operating at a loss due to the reduced venue capacities and experiences in addition to the inability to host large events,” she said.
Last month, The Henry Ford launched a campaign to raise $10 million or more to fill a budget shortfall left by the four-month closure of its attractions.
Nearly two-thirds of the $77 million annual budget with which it started the year hinged on earned revenue from admission tickets, food and retail purchases, event rentals and memberships. The museum was operating on just a couple of months of cash on hand as of June. Last week , Brent Ott, vice president of business services and CFO, said it now has an appropriate amount of cash on hand to operate short term but continues to work with its board’s finance committee to evaluate options for debt.
“If there were no limits to capacities, attendance would definitely be stronger, especially with the Marvel exhibit,” Mooradian said.
The state mandates are only one part of the equation for arts and cultural groups to recapture visitors and earned revenue. Visitors also have to feel comfortable showing up beyond their current numbers.
CultureSource is funding periodic surveys done by WolfBrown to understand public sentiment on visiting arts and cultural organizations. The most recent study in July surveyed 7,531 arts and culture attendees in Michigan. Just 15 percent said they will resume attendance as soon as restrictions are lifted, down from 16 percent in May when the first survey was done.
Just under a third, or 29 percent, said they would not resume attendance until they receive vaccination or immunity, the same number who said they trust other visitors and audience members to follow health and safety rules.
In terms of donations, 96 percent said they’d donate as much or more as they did before the pandemic to the organizations they support, and 88 percent said they will spend as much or more than they did pre-COVID-19 on tickets, admissions and memberships.
The study concluded many respondents are still not ready to return to in-person events and report that they are not comfortable going to most cultural facilities even with social distancing. But the study noted that it did see a group of respondents return to museums last month.
Of those surveyed, 59 percent said they trust organizations to determine when it is safe for visitors and audiences to return.
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