HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Theatre Center has adopted a “digital first” strategy and is hopeful that cryptocurrency will help boost financial support from the community, as the pandemic continues to put stress on venues awaiting unexpected rule changes.

Beginning Monday, Jan. 10, new indoor gathering restrictions will be in effect for at least three weeks. Large indoor events on Oahu expecting 1,000 or more attendees will be required to cut capacity to only 50% of the venue. The change, albeit temporary, is a setback for the Theatre that already had three events rescheduled.

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The Theatre reopened its doors in November 2021 after being shuttered for 20 months due to the pandemic. The decision to return to in-person shows followed Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s announcement of a phased reopening plan that lifted gathering restrictions for indoor and outdoor managed events. The Theatre then announced a lineup of shows for the coming months, which included several that have been rescheduled from their original dates in 2020. 

The pandemic, however, continues to keep the schedule temporary. At the request of artists and performers, the Theatre had to reschedule three events in January, including the Tom Segura, Ron Artis II and The Na Makk O Pu’uwai Aloha halau shows.

“To put this into perspective, these three events, that represented seven different showings, were going to bring in over $500,000 in revenue for the Theatre, affected over 7,000 ticket buyers, and over 150 various staff and production crew members who would have had work on these show days,” said Gregory Dunn, Hawaii Theatre Center CEO.

The Jefferson Starship concert that was expected to be a full house at the end of January is now being postponed following the mayor’s announcement last week.

Dunn is concerned that with large events shutting down again, it could take months for the Theatre to get back to full capacity that they safely enjoyed in November and December. Dunn adds that the Theatre was able to operate from Nov. 4, 2021 through New Year’s Day (about 60 days) safely with no reports of COVID-19 spread related to their events due to their strong safety protocols.

“We feel very strongly that by requiring 100% vaccinated audiences in conjunction with testing that we have shown that large events that follow and enforce the Safe Oahu rules are possible,” Dunn said. “We would hope that rather than take a ‘one-size fits all’ approach, our track record in providing safe and problem free entertainment to our community will be taken into account and we would be allowed to continue to operate in the manner we have over the last 60 days.”  

Following their “digital first” strategy, Dunn is hopeful cryptocurrency can backfill the decline in donations from those who are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. The Theatre began accepting crypto donations last year, as one of the first nonprofits in the state to do so.

“It’s definitely not a ‘get rich quick’ type of opportunity, but it is giving us the opportunity to tell our story to younger donors, and provide them with a means to support the arts locally while leveraging their new found appreciated cryptocurrency holdings to do good,” he said.

Thus far, the Theatre has received donations in the form of Bitcoin, Etherium, Doge Coin, Kyber Network, to name a few. Although most people are familiar with Bitcoin, this was the least popular of the donations. The largest, Dunn says, has been in Ethereum where they received 0.5 ETH from a single donor.

“We’ve received one gift from a Hawaii resident, and all others have been off-island donations,” Dunn said. “We’re hopeful that with our social media campaigns, email marketing campaigns and word of mouth that we’ll see an increase in giving from the crypto and NFT community.”

Since the Theatre began accepting crypto donations, it has brought in several hundreds of dollars in donations. The Theatre is also participating in an international cryptocurrency campaign with nonprofit partner The Giving Block, which has resulted in millions of dollars in donations that will be split among the partners in their various giving funds. Dunn says The Giving Block matched the first $100,000 in crypto donations to the Arts & Culture Fund, and the Theatre is one of 29 beneficiaries.  

“We will each receive an equal share of donations to the fund over the next year, so with the first $200,000 in gifts to the cause fund from December 2021, we expect to see at least $7,000 in donations for the January award,” said Dunn.

According to Dunn, the Hawaii Community Foundation recently reported that less than 3% of all charitable giving in the State of Hawaii goes to support the arts.  

“Because of the growth of cryptocurrency globally, our goal is to expand the pool of potential donors who are willing to support the iconic theatre from afar,” he said.

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The Theatre is currently only accepting cryptocurrency as donations but is exploring ways to possibly enhance its ticketing software to allow for ticket and concession payments in the future.