Terrorist Attacks Against Performing Arts Venues: Global Trends and Characteristics Spanning 50 Years

Stephen Y. Liang, Lin Lin Tian, Garrett A. Cavaliere, Benjamin J. Lawner, Gregory N. Jasani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: In fostering community and culture through entertainment in shared spaces, performing arts venues have also become targets of terrorism. A greater understanding of these attacks is needed to assess the risk posed to different types of venues, to inform medical disaster preparedness, to anticipate injury patterns, and to reduce preventable deaths. Methods: A search of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) was conducted from the year 1970 through 2019. Using pre-coded variables for target/victim type and target subtype, attacks involving business and entertainment/cultural/stadium/casino were identified. Attacks targeting performing arts venues were selected using the search terms theater, theatre, auditorium, center, hall, house, concert, music, opera, cinema, and movie. Manual review by two authors was performed to confirm appropriateness for inclusion of entries involving venues where the primary focus of the audience was to view a performance. Descriptive statistics were performed using R (version 3.6.1). Results: A total of 312 terrorist attacks targeting performing arts venues were identified from January 1, 1970 through December 31, 2019. Two-hundred nine (67.0%) attacks involved cinemas or movie theaters, 80 (25.6%) involved unspecified theaters, and 23 (7.4%) specifically targeted live music performance venues. Two-hundred thirty-four (75.0%) attacks involved a bombing or explosion, 50 (16.0%) damaged a facility or infrastructure, and 17 (5.4%) included armed assault. Perpetrators used explosives in 234 (75.0%) attacks, incendiary weapons in 50 (16.0%) attacks, and firearms in 19 (6.1%) attacks. In total, attacks claimed the lives of 1,307 and wounded 4,201 persons. Though fewer in number, attacks against music venues were responsible for 29.4% of fatalities and 35.0% of those wounded, and more frequently involved the use of firearms. Among 95 attacks falling within the highest quartile for victims killed or wounded (>two killed and/or >ten wounded), 83 (87.4%) involved explosives, seven (7.4%) involved firearms, and three (3.2%) involved incendiary methods. Conclusion: While uncommon, terrorist attacks against performing arts venues carry the risk for mass casualties, particularly when explosives and firearms are used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-599
Number of pages7
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 9 2022


  • Emergency Medical Services
  • disaster medicine
  • emergency preparedness
  • performing arts
  • terrorism


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