All 41 Broadway theaters in New York City were closed on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Broadway League, the industry’s national trade association, announced these venues will remain closed all summer — opening no earlier than Labor Day, September 7 — The New York Times reported.
Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, explained the decision in a press release issued on May 12.
“While all Broadway shows would love to resume performances as soon as possible, we need to ensure the health and well-being of everyone who comes to the theatre — behind the curtain and in front of it — before shows can return.”
The Hollywood Reporter reports the shutdown was initially scheduled to end on April 12 before being extended to June. However, while COVID-19-related deaths in New York have declined, they’re not at a level that would allow large gatherings, as 150-plus New Yorkers are dying every day due to the pandemic. Arts-related matters are in the final phase of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for reopening New York industries.
Although the shutdown has been extended through Labor Day, there’s no guarantee it will end in September. The Hollywood Reporter forecasts that theaters won’t be reopening until the first quarter of 2021.
With the ongoing suspension of Broadway performances due to COVID-19 continuing until further notice, the Broadway League is updating information regarding ticket refunds and exchanges through September 6, 2020.https://t.co/vbFWXoFb17 pic.twitter.com/XWB8pdpIKz
— The Broadway League (@BroadwayLeague) May 12, 2020
With Broadway productions bringing large numbers of people in close contact, the industry is understandably hesitant to risk spreading illness during this time. Cautionary measures, such as distanced seating for audience members, mandatory temperature checks, and requiring masks and gloves, could be enacted. However, such seating might pose a financial challenge for recouping show costs. Additionally, social distancing would be impractical for productions, which often require actors to be in close proximity.
Broadway isn’t alone when it comes to extending shutdowns. Last week, the Society of London Theatres announced that their shutdown would continue until at least June 28. The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis announced that shows wouldn’t resume until March 2021 and that their season would be cut from a planned 11 shows to three.
Even when theaters reopen, things are unlikely to return to normal. Many Broadway patrons are senior citizens — or tourists, or both — and many members of these demographics may be reluctant to attend shows. With widespread layoffs and unemployment rising in the wake of the pandemic, individuals may not have the financial means to attend Broadway shows.
Some shows have been delayed due to the shutdown, while others have been canceled. Hangmen, a play by Martin McDonagh, and a revival of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? were in previews at the time of shutdown. Neither will be reopening. The 74th Annual Tony Awards have also been delayed due to the pandemic.