Earlier this year, Broadway was booming with success – closing shows and opening its doors to new performances – yet, everything became halted when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in New York City. Now, The Great White Way is officially closed through Labor Day weekend, but producers are not even sure that the industry will be ready to open after this summer.
The industry, which grossed nearly $2 billion in 2019, is facing a huge loss in revenue. One producer, frustrated with the optimism, questioned, “When can people go the theater again? Not until there’s a fucking vaccine.”
“All of us are making a collective bet with each other, and the biggest bet here is, when will enough audience members feel safe enough to buy premium price tickets?” the producer told Vanity Fair. “If the people running the theaters and running the shows hedge and they hedge badly, it’s difficult for me to see a world in which every show that was on Broadway [before the shutdown] doesn’t close.”
While some shows have announced that they will not return – including Hangmen and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 41 theaters have still not announced the stats of their shows. Long-running productions like Wicked, The Lion King, and Hamilton will likely come back first, followed by smaller-scale shows Come From Away and last season’s best-musical winner Hadestown. The third wave of productions to come back will likely include the shows that had just opened or were set to debut like Jagged Little Pill, Six, and Company.
One show, however, is on-the-rocks. Beetlejuice, which had garnered multiple awards and nominations after its first year on Broadway, was set to close in April. However, theaters shut down just a few weeks before Beetlejuice could officially close. While the Winter Garden Theatre will now host The Music Man, producers are discussing possibilities for Beetlejuice to resume at another venue.
In addition to the slow reopening, theater insiders are concerned that the Tony Awards’ lack of presence will only hurt shows more. The highly-anticipated annual show was postponed earlier this year. It is unknown if the ceremony will be outright cancelled, televised, or even held over Zoom.
Nonetheless, this pandemic may present an opportunity for the industry to target different types of theatergoers.
“All of this is daunting, but it presents opportunities too,” an industry veteran told Vanity Fair. “[We can] broaden our audiences for all shows by using more affordable ticket prices and a shift in marketing strategy to make audiences for whom theatergoing isn’t a regular habit feel welcome coming to Broadway.”