A surge in coronavirus cases is starting to take a real financial toll on Broadway, just as the industry is attempting to rebound from its long shutdown.
The Broadway League, a trade association, said Tuesday that its theaters grossed $22.5 million last week. That’s 26 percent less than the $30.5 million in tickets sold last week; In the week before Christmas in 2019, total earnings were $40.1 million.
The drop in grosses is a reflection of the fact that many shows have canceled performances after positive coronavirus tests forced cast or crew members to quarantine and there weren’t enough sane or replacement staff to keep the show going.
Last weekend, about a third of all shows canceled some performances, and this week, several shows decided to postpone performances until after Christmas, including “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Aladdin,” “Dear Evan Hansen.” ,” “Hadstown,” “Hamilton,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “The Lion King,” “MJ” and “Skeleton Crew.” Also, “Tina“Cancelled until Christmas Night; and “Jagged Little Pill” stopped altogether, and “Mrs. Doubtfire” canceled Tuesday night.
Attendance also declined in view of the cancellations: 184,227 people watched the Broadway show last week, down from 240,602 the previous week.
The resulting revenue drop is a real concern for an industry where most shows, even before the pandemic, fail financially. But the damage isn’t spread evenly – some shows that remain open are benefiting by selling tickets to people scrambling to see some after the cancellation of their first-choice shows. This year the Broadway League is only releasing total weekly grosses instead of breaking them down for individual productions, so it’s hard to see how the financial implications are playing out.
Five other shows cited the pandemic shutdown in deciding not to reopen this fall — the musicals “Frozen,” “Mean Girls” and “West Side Story” and the dramas “The Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ” Two shows cited the ongoing pandemic in deciding to shut down for good after starting (or restarting) this fall, then halting because of positive coronavirus tests at their companies: not just the “Jagged Little Pill” “, which announced the closure on Monday night, but also the play “Chicken and Biscuit”, which closed last month.
The current crisis is coming at the worst possible time for the industry, as the holiday season is traditionally the most lucrative time of year for Broadway, and many shows rely on holidays for soft periods.
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said she does not envision the industry shutting down again, no matter how many individual shows have to be put on hold. “I don’t imagine a shutdown by us, unless every show has people with Covid,” she said. “We’re going to hire as many people as we can.”
And New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, at a news conference on Tuesday, was similarly closed-averse. “No more shutdowns,” he said. “We’ve been through them. They were devastating. We can’t go through this again.”