New Reality of Broadway: Spring 2020

This photo is courtesy of deccanherlad.com

This photo is courtesy of deccanherlad.com

Since December 2019, a new strain of the harmful and potentially deadly Coronavirus, Covid-19, has rocked media headlines and led the world into mass chaos.  As of Wednesday, March 4th, 2020, the number of confirmed cases has reached over 95,000 and the death toll was above 3,300, including 159 in the United States.

It is very clear that many industries and businesses have suffered from the virus amid international uncertainty. According to Yahoo Finance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the system in which the New York Stock Exchange estimates the nation’s standing economically, dropped nearly 4,000 points in just nine days, the largest drop since the 2008 recession.

While it is blatant that many companies have suffered, one that is not getting national attention is the entertainment industry, in particular, Broadway.

Broadway has seen a drastic difference in attendance amid fears of Coronavirus. According to data from the Broadway League, numbers in 2020 have lagged behind last year at this time by about 2%, and while this number may not seem big, the drop comes directly after Broadway’s best attendance on record.

Broadway News described how the decline in tourism is almost certainly going to impact the Broadway industry.  “The biggest declines in tourism are expected to come from international visitors, particularly with travelers arriving from China, a projected decline of 26%, and a 12% decline in visitors from Asia overall,” according to a statement from NYC & Company.

The shows that typically have a stronger than potential gross, such as Hamilton and Hadestown.  Besides these shows and a select few plays, however, most shows did not reach their potential gross, let alone their averages.

“Stagedooring” is a common practice among Broadway theatergoers.  This is where fans will meet the actors from the show they saw that night at the stage door if the actors choose to. Shows that have large fan followings are especially prone to people to stage door. According to Broadway News, the cast of the new musical Hadestown has not been stage dooring and will not stage door for at least the next 30 days amid fears of Coronavirus. Hadestown won the Tony Award for Best Musical at the 2019 Tony Awards, along with 7 other awards at the ceremony. 

Though many theatre fans have fears surrounding the tight proximity to others in the theatre, The Broadway League, the main people who run the Broadway industry, is assuring fans that they are doing everything in their power to keep the theatres safe from the spread of the virus. “The safety and security of our theatergoers and employees is our highest priority,” The Broadway League said in a statement. “We are following the lead of our city, state and federal elected officials as we implement strategies recommended by public health authorities and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in all of our theaters and offices.”

The League even gave specifics of how they were handling the situation. “We have significantly increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all the public and backstage areas beyond the standard daily schedule, and we have added alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers for the public to use in the lobby of every theatre.”

With the virus has spread in both New York State and New York City, producers are urging sick fans to stay home. “Anyone who is experiencing cold or flu symptoms, or who is not feeling well, is encouraged to stay home and contact the point of purchase for more information about ticket exchanges and policies.”

A CDC official, Dr. Ruben Spurkle, tried to make light of the situation with the economic impact of the virus, stating “We urge everyone to stop shaking hands immediately. Instead, we suggest greeting people in a manner both more sanitary and, frankly, more fabulous: jazz hands. If we have any hope of saving the world from this crippling disease, by God, it is with sassy, interpretive movement.”

Even when safety is assured, uncertainty is keeping many people away from the theatre.

It is uncertain how the rest of the season will play out. Spring is often a time where tourism, and therefore, ticket sales for Broadway, spike.  It may be your best chance to secure rush tickets or standing room for those shows that you’ve been dying to see but haven’t been able to get your hands on affordable tickets.