Bye-bye Broadway: A grim prognosis for New York’s theaters

New York City Broadway theaters closed on March 12, 2020. The closure was supposed to be for just one month. Fourteen months later, the theaters are still closed. But now Governor Cuomo has announced New York’s theaters are cleared for reopening, starting September 14. No less than 23 plays are scheduled to open between September and November.

Theaters will be allowed to open at “full capacity,” but with “social distancing,” with “capacity limitations are only governed by the ability of people to socially distance by six feet.” Maybe this makes sense to someone who is “woke,” but it does not make sense to me. Theater seats are not exactly six feet apart. In fact, a problem with Broadway’s theaters when they were open was that, when most of the theaters were built, only a tiny percent of the population was over 6 feet tall or over 250 pounds.

Broadway’s 41 theaters range in capacity from 600 to just under 2,000, but more than 30 seat more than 1,000. A play has to be at close to 100% audience capacity to be economically viable. Taking out seats would require drastically raising already pre-Wuhan Virus sky high prices. Cuomo has hinted all theater patrons will require proof of vaccination.

I keep hearing how resilient New York City is and that it will be back. But I think New York City is finished forever as a “world” capital; it is Karachi, Pakistan now – the biggest city and commercial, not political, capital of a populous nation.

I’ll believe the Broadway theater will be back and viable when I see it happen. 

On January 13, 2020, just one month before the Wuhan virus closed Broadway, The Broadway League released its annual demographic report for the 2018-2019 season. Not knowing of the debacle that was only four weeks away, the report had a glowing tone, "This is a thrilling time for Broadway and our audiences…It’s so exciting to see younger and more diverse audiences filling our theaters.… In the 2018-2019 season, Broadway shows welcomed 14.8 million admissions, an all-time high.”

But when you get down to examining the details of the demographics, it paints a bleak future for a post-Wuhan virus theater.

The report bragged that “Along with the overall growth in attendance, the number of admissions by non-Caucasian theatre goers reached a record high of 3.8 million.”  But that means just over 74% of theater goers were Caucasians.  The theater thus depends on toxic whites.

The average age of attendees was 42.3 years old, about a year older than during the previous season. The theater depends on older patrons. Furthermore, most theatergoers reported going to the theater as children, and 41% of adults had a graduate degree. Theater depends on those whose cultural heritage was passing on love of theater.

The report’s own numbers put lie to its assessment that theater goers were getting younger and more diverse. Because of record admissions in 2018-2109, the number who were non-white and young rose too, but not the percentages.

The average annual household income of the Broadway theatre goers was a stunning $261,000, well up from the previous year’s average of $222,120. The average ticket price for the 2018-19 season was a hefty $145.60. The theater depends on those whose wealth needs to be redistributed.

Six or seven years ago, I was teaching at a college and was a subscriber to an off-Broadway theater. I told a professor I could get tickets to a good off Broadway play for only $25, and that he should go with his wife. He said maybe the play would be only $50, but in addition to the hassle of driving into Manhattan, he would have to pay for tolls, parking would be $35, and dinner for two would be another $200. If each theater ticket had been $180 dollars, think of the cost for the evening.

Sixty-five percent of attendees were tourists. The theater thus depends on tourists.

Let’s us add that all together and see how it can not mean anything else but the death of Broadway theater.

How is New York City, with its defunded and demoralized NYPD and rising murder and shooting rate, going to attract tourists? Attacking and killing the few tourists that were still coming, is now in, in this woke BLM city. What is the difference between New York and Mount Everest? Both have no culture, no economy, no restaurants, no police, and are extremely dangerous. But Mount Everest will get tourists.

Whites and the rich have fled the city. With the economy demolished, who is left to afford the Broadway ticket price, which because of fewer seats, will be even higher than the 145 dollars the report quoted? Older people are still afraid to leave the house because of the virus, and many did not survive Cuomo.

Good luck reopening Broadway. I see Broadway theater having the same chance in New York City as a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Photo credit: Dennis Beck / Broadway Tour CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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