The unprecedented closure will impact the Tony Awards and other Times Square businesses
Who says the show must go on? With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on Thursday to ban all gatherings of 500-plus people, Broadway theaters collectively went dark for at least a month — a move that could mean at least $565 million in lost revenues.
The shutdown could lead to the loss of as much as $140 million in ticket revenues, based on grosses reported by the Broadway League from the same four-week period last year. And that’s not counting the ancillary spending by tourists coming to New York City specifically to see theater, which the League last year pegged at $5.1 billion for the entire 1998-99 season. That would amount to another $425 million for a one-month period.
There were 31 productions on the boards Wednesday night before the Cuomo-ordered closures, with another eight due to begin preview performances ahead of the April 23 eligibility for this year’s Tony Awards. “It’s really bad timing,” one one veteran Broadway executive said Friday. “But I do believe that Broadway is incredibly resilient.”
A spokesperson for the Tony Awards did not respond to questions about the status of this year’s awards, which had been scheduled to take place at Radio City Music Hall on June 7 and will almost certainly be disrupted by the shutdown.
“It’s a really moment-to moment situation,” the exec said. “Some of the shows are still waiting to see what happens. Is it really only 30 days, or is it going to be longer?”
Even if performances do resume after April 13, there will be limited time for official premieres for the 16 shows that had been slated to debut over the next six weeks, including the London-originating musical “Six” whose opening night had been set for Thursday.
A volunteer usher for that show as well as a Laurie Metcalf-led revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, which already raised concerns about Broadway’s ability to continue amid the growing pandemic.
And it’s unclear if all of those shows will be able to open given the economic challenges for producers to cover staff costs during the down time without revenue coming in — and the expected downturn in New York City tourism that may result from the pandemic crisis.
This will be the longest shutdown in modern history. A 1975 musicians strike forced 12 musicals to go dark for 25 days, and a 2007 stagehands walkout forced a 19-day shutdown. Broadway also went dark for two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as well as for a three-day period at the time of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.