COVID-19 Response Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs relate specifically to the guidelines produced by NSW Health for cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and drive-in cinemas.

The answers have been verified by a representative from NSW Health. Information accurate as of 29 September 2020.

1. The guidelines specify that seated groups or individuals should be separated by 1-2 empty seats on both sides to support physical distancing. Does “both sides” mean either side on the same row, or does it also include in front and behind a seated group/booking?
It means either side of the same row. If audiences are facing forwards, no additional distancing in front or behind is required.

2. The new rules for theatres state 4 square metres per person or 50% capacity – whichever is the greater. So if the 4 square metre rule enables 150 audience members but 50% enables 250 audience members we can go with 250 as this is the greater? As long as we leave 1-2 seats between parties?
Yes, this is correct.

3. I run a theatre that is entirely staffed by volunteers – front of house, back of house, and performers. Should I include these workers in my venue capacity?
No. The 50% venue capacity refers to the seated capacity of audiences only. It does not include paid or volunteer staff.

4. I run a theatre that has general admission. Do I need to assign specific seats to patrons through ticketing?
The guidelines for theatres, cinemas, and concert halls have been developed in relation to live performance venues that by and large have the following:

  • A ticketing system
  • Fixed seating arrangements

It is not required in the guidelines that you have a designated seat for each audience member. However, it is important that you undertake a booking process for contact-tracing purposes. Designated seating would assist NSW Health to track and trace nearby audience members in a case of COVID-19, and may also help to minimise the number of your audience members needing to isolate in this event.

5. When working in a flexible venue (i.e. no fixed capacity), do we work to maximum capacity achievable to calculate 50%?
You would need to work out the seated capacity of the space that you want to use, making sure you discount the stage/performance area, and ingress and egress pathways in your calculation. You would need to make sure that the audience is seated and the booking is ticketed. Most indoor venues also have capacity limitations that are mandated as part of adherence to fire and safety regulations, or building codes.

6. Our venue has both outdoor and indoor spaces. Does the 50% rule apply to our outdoor space?
The guidelines for theatres, cinemas, and concert halls have been developed in relation to live performance venues that by and large have the following:

  • A ticketing system
  • Fixed seating arrangements

If your outdoor space is in an open part of the interior boundaries of your premises, you would still need to make sure that the audience is seated and the booking is ticketed. If the outdoor area is external to your venue premises, then the 20 person limit on gatherings still applies.

7. I am running a cabaret venue. What guidelines should I look at?
The health guidelines for theatres, cinemas, and concert halls have been developed for venues that have the common features of forward-facing seats. In these arrangements, seated audience members are not breathing directly towards each other. Cabaret venues should ensure 1.5 metres physical distancing between people seated at tables, similarly to the guidelines in place for pubs and clubs.

8. I am running a cabaret-style seating in a theatre venue. What guidelines should I look at?
You should still use the guidelines for cinemas, theatres, and concert halls as this remains the primary purpose of your venue.

9. How far away from the stage should the audience seating start?
NSW Health would suggest the physical distancing minimum of 1.5m, except for where singing is involved. The audience should be seated 5m away from any singer on stage/in the performance space, and there should be 3m distance in the direction of airflow from any non-reeded woodwind (flutes, recorders, etc) and the audience.

10. I am producing an end-of-year presentation for a dance school with 30 children. What are the rules for physical distancing at back of house in the theatre I am working in?
While backstage, all staff, performers and crew should maintain 1.5m physical distance where possible. The venue should also have a COVID-Safe plan in place that covers additional safety measures, including for back of house staff.

11. Is there a limit to how many people I can have on stage in a performance in terms of the 20 people gathering rule?
No. If a performance is conducted inside a venue that has a COVID-Safe plan, this 20 person limit on gatherings does not apply. If the performance were to take place in a local park, then the gathering limit would apply.

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