Hollywood Bowl 2020 Season Canceled for First Time in 98 Years Due to COVID-19

Hollywood Bowl (Photo: LA Phil)
Hollywood Bowl (Photo: LA Phil)

For the first time in almost 100 years, there will be no summer season of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.

On Wednesday, it was officially announced that the scheduled programming of summer concerts under the stars at the famed outdoor venue will not take place as scheduled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While unfortunate news, this isn’t very surprising for the Los Angeles region, considering what’s been happening as a result of the pandemic and the total uncertainty surrounding when, if ever, the concept of live concerts will return to what they were before the pandemic came along and uprooted everything.


But still … it’s tough news nonetheless. For those in the greater Los Angeles area, the Hollywood Bowl summer season is synonymous with summer itself, touring acts and special performances lighting up the stage under the stars for unforgettable evenings of music, art, comedy and much more. Its hallowed halls are rooted in history, making the entire Bowl area feel like a living museum of culture.

Said Gail Samuel, President of the Hollywood Bowl and Chief Operating Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, about the decision to cancel the season:

“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. 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.”


News of the season’s cancellation came on Wednesday from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, which added that shows at the nearby Ford Theatre have also been canceled:

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.

The LA Phil estimates that revenues lost from these canceled concerts, as well as a portion of the orchestra’s spring season, will result in a roughly $80M budget shortfall. To mitigate these losses, the LA Phil must now take additional steps to address the financial impact caused by the pandemic and is furloughing approximately 25% of its full-time non-union workforce, as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra through September 30, 2020, and is laying off seasonal Hollywood Bowl employees. Prior to these decisions, the Association reduced all non-essential expenses, laid off its part-time employees, instituted salary reductions of 35% in aggregate, and made the decision to draw from its endowment.

These cost-saving measures will continue through the summer.

And for those who possess tickets for events that will no longer happen this summer:

To preserve the LA Phil as it faces unprecedented financial strain, the Association is launching “Play Your Part,” a $35 million campaign. “Play Your Part” will support 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. As part of the overall campaign, Hollywood Bowl ticketholders will have the option of supporting what has been a summertime tradition for generations of Los Angeles families by 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. 

This story from the Los Angeles Times sums up the history of the Hollywood Bowl and what makes it such an important landmark to the area, which might help explain to outsiders what type of reputation the Bowl has among locals:

The reality of a Hollywood Bowl gone quiet for the whole season — a silent summer — is hard to fathom when music played on during the end of one world war and throughout another, through Korea and Vietnam, though the Great Depression and the Great Recession, through 9/11 and all the floods, fires, riots and chaos in between.

By Rock Cellar Magazine Staff

Staff writer from Rock Cellar Magazine