Study Finds that Denver Residents are 4th in the Nation for Spending on Entertainment

Information in this article has been pulled from and the BLS’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. 

COVID-19 has hit many industries very hard, as people aren’t able to gather safely in restaurants, theatres, stores, and more. There has been a distinct shift in the economy from in-person expenditures to people spending their time and money at home and online.  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) definition of the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector includes establishments that are involved in live performances and events (such as theaters and concert venues), those that exhibit objects of educational interest (including art museums and historical sites), and those that provide other forms of recreation or amusement (like theme parks).  


In the entertainment sector, most of these types of businesses rely heavily on patrons purchasing admission or spending money on other fees associated with the use of a space. With the restrictions placed in response to COVID-19, many of these businesses were forced to close or operate at significantly reduced capacity. Ongoing concerns about the spread of coronavirus limited attendance, even as the restrictions relaxed. Because of this, revenues dropped from $61 billion in the last quarter of 2019 to $23 billion in the second quarter of 2020. One year later, in the second quarter of 2021, revenues had only recovered to around $49.5 billion.  

To see more information about the economic impact in Denver specifically, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA) released a study illustrating Denver’s record-breaking cultural growth and decline. “Arts, culture and scientific organizations are the backbone of a vibrant, resilient and inclusive society,” said Christin Crampton Day, Executive Director of CBCA. “CBCA’s 2021 Economic Activity Study of Metro Denver Culture illustrates years of record-breaking cultural growth, which hit an all-time high in 2019, and conversely in 2020, how a community responds to drastic and disruptive circumstances.”  

However, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2020 shows Denver as one of the top metro areas in the United States spending money on entertainment. To identify the major U.S. regions that spend the most on entertainment, researchers calculated total entertainment spending as a proportion of total spending for each location. For context, the data for the average national household spending is listed below: 

  • Average annual entertainment spending: $2,912
  • Average annual total spending: $61,334
  • Average annual pre-tax income: $84,332

The data for Denver household spending is included below: 

  • Average annual entertainment spending: $4,675
  • Average annual total spending: $75,760
  • Average annual pre-tax income: $112,907

Some cities rank above Denver in annual entertainment spending: Anchorage, AK spends $4,936; Seattle, WA spends $5,235; and Houston, TX spends $6,040.  

In Colorado, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) “provides funding, through a sales tax district created by voters 30 years ago, to the vast majority of arts and culture non-profits across the entire seven-county Denver metro area.” In 2019, the SCFD provided $65 million in funding to nearly 300 organizations, including many in Denver. This community investment contributed to metro Denver’s ability to sustain the entertainment industry in crisis. 

Two actors sing, seated, in the foreground as three additional actors appear with string instruments in the background.

We are sure to experience bumps along the road to returning to live theatre performances, but the DCPA is proud to be a part of a thriving arts and entertainment culture in Colorado. Upcoming shows include locally produced plays such as Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Rattlesnake Kate, and In the Upper Room; touring Broadway productions of The Choir of Man, Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show, and Hamilton; and the highly anticipated announcement of Off-Center’s Theater of the Mind by Mala Gaonkar and David Byrne 

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