Broadway League Head Hopes Theaters Will Reopen in January: ‘We Can’t Afford to Socially Distance the Audience’

Charlotte St. Martin tells The Daily Beast Broadway is seeing a loss of $35 million per week during the shutdown

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The head of the Broadway League Charlotte St. Martin says she is hoping theaters on Broadway can reopen by January 2021 and that under current financial conditions, would need to do so with full houses.

While social distancing options for performances have been considered, St. Martin says that they won’t be able to socially distance cast and crew effectively or have performers wear masks and that they also can’t afford theater audiences that are spread out.

“We know that we cannot socially distance within theaters with the present financial models we have,” St. Martin said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “We can’t socially distance the cast and crew in these 100-year-old-plus buildings.”

She continued: “And we can’t afford to socially distance the audience. We have terrific theatrical employees, but they are the most expensive theatrical employees in the world.”

St. Martin told The Daily Beast that in the last 10 weeks since Broadway went dark in March, theaters collectively have lost an average of $35 million per week, which if this were to continue into January as she estimates, would amount to a loss of $1.5 billion in revenue.

The Broadway League previously announced that theaters will be formally closed until September 6, or Labor Day weekend. Since then, many shows that were shut down or were in the process of opening or were in previews before theaters went dark have already announced they would not reopen once theaters are allowed to do so, including the stage adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen.”

St. Martin said she is optimistic that audiences will return to theaters, but acknowledged that there may be empty theaters on Broadway with no productions until things pick up.

“We do anticipate some loss of business when we reopen,” St. Martin said. “But we’re not going to open until we have the information that tells us it’s safe to sit next to each other, and for the cast and crew to be dancing and kissing and everything else they do, sweating on each other. We’re not going to put people’s lives at risk, at least not knowingly.”

St. Martin also addressed new policies and approaches being implemented, including contact-free ticket scanning, new improvements in bathrooms and concessions, and the League has been exploring options related to the problem of people queuing in long lines for performances outside theaters.

“I hope it becomes a problem, by which I mean that the audience comes back,” St. Martin said. “There is some thinking that the side streets of Broadway would be shut down to accommodate the lines, and enable social distancing.”

Read St. Martin’s full interview at The Daily Beast.