The sounds of a small jazz combo filled the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Warm candles lit the space. Over at the museum’s American Wing Cafe, Christa Chiao and Anna Lee Hirschi were sipping proseccos.
It was the first weekend of “Date Night” at the Met, an initiative to lure local visitors back to the museum on Friday and Saturday evenings with two-for-one cocktails, gallery chats and free live music featuring New Orleans jazz bands, Renaissance ensembles and string quartets.
The museum’s efforts to woo back visitors from the region come as many New York cultural organizations worry not only about the pandemic-era decline in tourism, but also about the continuing struggle to bring back local crowds. The Met is currently attracting 62 percent of the local visitors it did before the coronavirus pandemic, a change it attributes in part to the continuing prevalence of remote work.
“In this new reality, where many outer borough residents are working virtually and do not have to come to Manhattan, it’s on us, on the cultural institutions, to be creative and proactive in finding ways to encourage local visitorship,” said Ken Weine, a spokesman for the museum.
“The challenge that the Met faces,” he said, “is really no different than a midtown small business.”
The Met is far from the only arts institution trying to entice local visitors back with deals as the Omicron surge fades and the coronavirus outlook seems to be improving.
Lincoln Center recently announced a new “Choose What You Pay” ticketing program for its American Songbook series at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, with a minimum ticket price of $5 and a suggested price of $35, in an effort to make its programing more accessible.
The Museum of Modern Art announced this week that it would restart a program offering free admission to New York City residents on the first Friday of every month from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
This year, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism agency, extended NYC Broadway Week — during which theatergoers can get two-for-one tickets to most Broadway shows — for an additional two weeks, through Feb. 27.