Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed down Broadway because of the coronavirus. Beginning Thursday, March 12th at 5 p.m. ET, the shutdown began. Depending on how things go, Broadway shows will reopen on Sunday, April 12th. Millions of dollars will be lost, but lives will be safer.
Cuomo is banning all gatherings that involve over 500 people. The only exceptions are hospitals, public transportation, hospitals, and nursing homes. Obviously, it’s meant for social distancing. New York Times’ Jesse McKinley learned of the shutdown first. It’s the first major shutdown since 2007 when a strike occurred and Broadway was in the dark for 19 days.
Theater owners were alerted before Cuomo made the decision public. In a statement, President of the Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, supported the decision:
“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals. Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
A couple of days ago, Martin was cautiously optimistic about the state of Broadway. Ticket sales hadn’t taken a huge toll yet, although there were some dips in attendance for major shows such as The Lion King and Frozen. Now, it’s hard to imagine how much money will be lost due to the closure. Broadway is a huge tourist attraction for the city.
People weren’t exactly interested in enjoying theater at the moment. Super producer Scott Rudin, however, made the strange decision of selling tickets to his major shows — The Book of Mormon, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf — at low prices. Any seats that were available, Rudin dropped to $50. Now, all his upcoming shows are canceled, but at the time he explained the odd decision to Deadline:
“As long as New York City is open for business, its beating heart remains the Broadway stage. This is an unprecedented opportunity for everyone to see a show that they otherwise might not have had easy and affordable access to. I can’t pretend that great theater is the panacea we’ve been waiting for, but in the meantime I think we could all use a few hours away from the evening news.”
It was an irresponsible move on Scott Rudin’s part. Right now, nobody should be tempting consumers into crowded venues with cheap seats. Yes, he’s right, people need something to take their mind off the times… but not by sitting in a huge audience of strangers from all over.
What Else to Know
Many off-Broadway shows are shutting down now, even though most don’t fill theaters of over 500 people. A few shows, such as The Headlands, have been closed down completely. Most shows are simply facing delays. With Broadway shut down until Easter, it’s estimated over $100 million will be lost in ticket sales. Insurance should help some theater owners.
Right now, there’s 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state of New York. One case was an usher at the Booth and Brooks Atkinson theaters, where they’re currently showing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Before Broadway got shut down, theaters were taking extra precautions by cleaning up houses more thoroughly.
The shutdown could very well last longer, which could have devastating effects on the industry. It earns over $1.8 billion a year and employs hundreds of thousands. We’ll see how Broadway recovers.