As of this weekend, it will have been a month since Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered Broadway to go dark to help prevent the spread of coronavirus throughout the city. Initially, it was announced productions would shut down until at least April 13th—but today, it was confirmed that it will be a while longer before we see another Broadway show.
The Broadway League, the trade group representing theater owners and producers, said that it will extend the current suspension of all performances at the 41 Broadway theaters through at least June 7th, 2020.
“Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals.” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League. “Broadway will always be at the very heart of the Big Apple, and we join with artists, theatre professionals, and fans in looking forward to the time when we can once again experience live theatre together.”
While the League is hopeful productions can start back up on June 7th, even in the best case scenario it will likely take much longer for shows to begin again. As the Times wrote, "live performance usually involves large numbers of people getting together in confined spaces, which could be viewed as a public health risk, and theater tends to draw an older audience, which is a population particularly vulnerable to this coronavirus."
Also hurting The Great White Way: Broadway is heavily dependent on tourism to the city, and ticket-sellers are reluctant to refund more tickets than they need to, and thus are more cautious about setting a definitive return date until everything is safe.
When asked about that reopening date at today's briefing, Gov. Cuomo said, “No, I wouldn’t use what they think. I wouldn’t use what Broadway thinks as a barometer of anything unless they’re in the public health business and have seen better numbers and models.”
The League adds that people who have tickets for performances through June 7th will receive an email from their point of purchase with information regarding exchanges or refunds. If you haven't received an email by April 12th, they say you should reach out to your point of purchase for more information.
Broadway has gone dark before, but never for this long a period of time. After September 11th, theaters were shut for 48 hours before reopening. In 2007, there was an 18-day stagehands strike against the Shubert, Jujamcyn, and Nederlander Theaters, and in 2003 there was a four-day Broadway musicians strike that impacted many musicals.
Early in March, the industry was initially reluctant to shutter both because of a desire to keep people employed with their productions, and also because if a Broadway production cancels shows voluntarily, it will not receive insurance coverage for loss of income. Once there was a government mandate to close, losses incurred after two closed shows were covered. A few ushers also tested positive for COVID-19 shortly before Cuomo's announcement.
Several shows that had just opened or were about to open have announced closures or postponements, including Martin McDonagh's Hangmen and a new production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The Tony Awards, which had been scheduled for June 7th, has been postponed to an undetermined date.
It has been forecasted that the economic impact of Broadway shutting down could see the industry possibly losing "well over $100 million due to the drop in tourism spending being felt in the accommodation, hospitality, and food industries, in addition to many others."