The “New” Financial Future of Outdoor Event Production

At In Depth Events, we’ve been watching industry trends to see how event promoters and attendees address social distancing and healthy behavior. Typically, the fall season sees lots of municipal events and community gatherings in Texas, but this year, the scene is evolving. The truth is, outdoor event production is changing, so it’s essential to stay ahead of the trends. As we have watched this year unfold, we have kept a close eye on things, here are some recent trends we have seen in live events that we wanted to share with you.


Social distancing at live events


One of the most significant event trends in a post-COVID world is the resurgence of the drive-in movie. For years, these theaters have been on the decline except for very specific locations. This year, however, business is booming. The combination of the outdoor theater and car access has redefined what “going out” means.  


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Piggybacking on this change has been the promotion of drive-in movies in temporary locations and venues. We’ve seen municipalities and collegiate clients interested in these types of events as well. As always, the questions that come up are movie licensing and FM transmission. Another common question is the use of a projector/screen or an LED Video wall. (Tip – if you expect to do the event in the early evening or during the day at all, you have to use LED panels, as projection won’t work in daylight).

 Wal-mart is also doing a limited number of drive-in movies – in Wal-mart parking lots! The shopping giant is taking 160 of their locations and giving away free tickets to movies shown on large screens. The movie lineup is pretty amazing, as well. While this is a blatant grab for customer loyalty and retention, it’s an interesting plan given our current situation – and it’s been wildly successful. Almost all showings are already fully reserved. You can find out more at


Live music and tailgating – financial strategies


In our new world, the standard ways of making money in live events have changed. Concert promoters, music venues, and churches are all struggling to understand these new ways of making money in events. Many times, these unproven methods make long-term investors and promoters skeptical. Here’s a breakdown of some of these unique events and how they work in a post-COVID world. 

Social Distancing in Ireland. This promotions team is selling their concert attendance with a new twist. The old way of making money on ticket sales was simple: one person – one ticket. The price of the ticket could be scaled based on GA or a specific seat in the venue. This recent concert in Ireland has turned heads worldwide by selling event spaces instead of selling individual tickets. Concert attendees purchase a 10’x10’ space with a maximum of 4 attendees. Depending on how close to the stage space is, it’s delineated by the bike rack, or built on system scaffolding, so everyone gets a great view. Additionally, F&B sales are handled by an app – you order your food or drinks with your booth number, and a runner brings it to you.

 In this model, ticket sales are still an income generator, as well as F&B and parking. The promoter does say that they couldn’t have done it without significant sponsorship – however, this new style of dedicated space is a pretty exciting idea, and we feel that some elements of it will probably last beyond COVID.

 Automobile tailgating – Texas Style. Nobody tailgates like Texans – and our hometown of McKinney, Texas, has a new idea that has been successful during the late summer. These concerts are selling a 20’x20’ event space, where part of the space is the parking for your car! It’s a great idea that merges the convenience of a drive-in movie with the excitement of a live show.  

 The most obvious problem from a financial standpoint is the loss of F&B, as most people will bring food and drinks in with them in their car. Additionally, ticket prices seem to be a little low at $45 per car in advance and $55 on-site. All parking is GA, first come, first served. It’s another idea that is interesting, but would be almost impossible without significant sponsorship.


The future of live events – 2021 and beyond


While there is no question that live events are an all-time low right now, the flip side is that there will be live events again. In a recent discussion with one of my friends, he mentioned that stagehand and technician labor rates were their highest event in 2019.  

 The question that everyone is asking themselves (and each other) is “when will things be normal again”? Some people want to use a date – I keep hearing November 5 mentioned a lot. Some people say that after a vaccine is developed and available. The real answer is that events will never again be the same as they were pre-COVID. Maybe, they will be better.