Broadway Blackout Continues

By: Sarah Brill  |  November 1, 2020

By Sarah Brill, Science and Technology Editor 

For all of us lucky enough to experience it, Broadway holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is it the place where, for two hours and thirty minutes, anyone from any walk of life can disappear to a world of make-believe, but it is also the center for all those who work in the performing arts industry in Manhattan. 

According to a recent CNBC article, Broadway’s decision to remain dark until 2021 cost Manhattan millions of tourist dollars. The theatre industry, pandemic aside, has been touch-and-go over the past few years with Netflix and other entertainment markets dominating the minds of the youth. It has been a concern that with this rise in TV and movie entertainment that the theatre industry would soon cease to exist, but between 2018 and 2019, Broadway racked in its highest grossing season at $1.83 billion in revenue. This year’s season totalled in $300 million of pre-paid tickets ranging from May 2019 until May 2020. Unfortunately, the $300 million is only credited to the tickets already paid for, not the ones bought in the theatres or around New York City itself, so it can be assumed that if Broadway hadn’t shut down, the revenue would rival that of last year’s. 

This year was a severe setback for Broadway, not just because it went dark, but because youth and teenagers went from going to Broadway shows and becoming immersed in that world, to becoming absorbed in the television. Now, not not only are children regressing into the electronic entertainment capital, but they will likely not be interested in live theatre once it comes back. On the bright side, producers have come up with various strategies to keep these people attuned to the Broadway world. 

Some musicals, including “Beetlejuice”, have gone as far as creating a TikTok account. Other musicals such as “Hamilton” and “Diana” released their live recordings on Disney+ and Netflix, respectively, to remind the world that live theatre is incomparable when it comes to televised entertainment. But it isn’t just the viewers of the Broadway shows missing out, it is also the actors and actresses themselves. 

Many of Broadway’s shows reached their closing date within, and past, the COVID-19 quarantine date, costing many actors their last chance to perform in their shows. These shows included “Beetlejuice”, Disney’s “Frozen”, and “Hangman”. “The Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union that represents around 51,000 stage actors and managers in the live theatrical performance industry,” estimated “more than 1,100 actors and managers lost work on Broadway during the pandemic.” According to CNBC, Broadway hasn’t experienced this kind of financial uncertainty since the attack on the Twin Towers. Unlike 2001, however, where Broadway actors and actresses returned to the stage two days after the attack, this pandemic seems to be taking a long-lasting toll on both the performers and the industry financially. 

It is unclear how these setbacks could affect the 2021-2022 season, but it is the hope that Broadway, when it returns to normal, will come back stronger than ever.