Hollywood Bowl Season Canceled for First Time in 98 Years

Hollywood Bowl exterior- Getty - H 2020
Getty Images

Shows at the iconic amphitheater located in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles have never stopped for more than two weeks during the last 100 summers.

The Hollywood Bowl is canceling its 2020 summer season, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced Wednesday. 

The move marks the first time in 98 years that the iconic amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles has canceled its season. Shows have never ceased for more than two weeks during the past 100 summers at the Bowl.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which manages the venue, cited a lack of resolution on the coronavirus crisis as the reason for the season cancellation. 

"In response to the latest guidance of public health officials and in an effort to protect artists, audiences and staff from the spread of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association is canceling the 2020 seasons at the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford. Seasons at these two Los Angeles County venues, normally scheduled from June through September, are programmed by the LA Phil and feature a wide variety of artists, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic," it announced in a press release. 

Amid the cancellation, the orchestra is already facing a $80 million budget shortfall. To mitigate these losses, the LA Phil announced that it is furloughing approximately 25 percent of its full-time non-union workforce, as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra through Sept. 30. Seasonal Hollywood Bowl employees will also be laid off. 

Prior to these decisions, the association had already reduced all nonessential expenses, laid off part-time employees, instituted salary reductions of 35 percent in aggregate, and made the decision to draw from its endowment. 

"The Hollywood Bowl and The Ford are much more than performance venues. They are iconic places and represent summer traditions that have played a part in defining Los Angeles itself. It's deeply saddening to acknowledge that the 2020 summer season is gone, but the LA Phil isn't going anywhere," said Gail Samuel, president of the Hollywood Bowl and COO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. "Our cultural community is among the most vibrant and creative in the world. We have every reason to look ahead with hope and confidence to next summer's centennial celebrations at the Hollywood Bowl and The Ford." 

To preserve the LA Phil in wake of the financial hardships, the Association is launching a $35 million campaign titled, "Play Your Part," aimed at supporting all of the association's ongoing operations and programs, including the LA Phil's YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles) program and other educational initiatives, which serve more than 150,000 youth, families and teachers every year. 

Hollywood Bowl ticketholders will have the option of donating the value of their tickets back to the LA Phil, raising an initial $1 million from a challenge grant from Jane and Michael Eisner.

The association's CEO Chad Smith and chief executive officer chair David C. Bohnett said in a joint statement: "The cancellation of our summer programs and the resulting impact on our musicians and staff is devastating. 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." 

Going forward, the LA Phil will continue to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and will reassess the association's situation as necessary. 

The news comes after, just last week, Los Angeles County reopened some trails and allowed some retailers to begin curbside services as long as social distancing rules are maintained. Beaches are set to reopen Wednesday. 

Of the county's coronavirus case count, an additional 591 newly diagnosed positive cases have been reported, for a total of 32,258. 

May 13, 12:46 p.m. Updated with statements and confirmation.