The Broadway League says it has not received any city or state guidance to cease Broadway shows in light of the coronavirus epidemic.
“Our general message is Broadway is open for business. We’re performing all eight shows eight times a week,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said in a call with members of the press Monday.
The message comes about a week after New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus. The numbers in the state have since grown to 142 confirmed cases, with 19 in the city. In response, the League has previously issued statements saying that Broadway theaters would undergo more intensive cleaning procedures and advising sick patrons to remain at home.
Attendance and grosses were up last week, as several new shows began previews on Broadway. However, big-brand shows, including all the Disney Theatrical productions, saw losses in the several thousands of dollars. St. Martin said this time period is typically weaker for Broadway shows and that she remained “cautiously optimistic” about business moving forward.
Broadway would likely not shut down unless ordered to by city, state or federal officials, she said.
“I think to close all theaters it would probably be an edict,” St. Martin said. “It’s certainly possible that in one theater, if a cast member or patron had it, they have to quarantine that theater.”
Asked about the possible live streaming of shows, should Broadway or certain theaters close, St. Martin said the League did “not have a streaming contingency” and would currently be prevented from streaming shows under union rules. While noting the high cost to stream, she said it could be a possibility under extreme circumstances.
“It would be very, very difficult for theaters to live stream unless there was some kind of new arrangement,” she said.
Each production has its own individual insurance policy, which could be in play should Broadway be shut down by official decree, she said. In 2012, Broadway shows shuttered for a few days due to Hurricane Sandy, as the city shut down public transportation.
Over the past two weeks, the League has been meeting with all Broadway theater owners, as well as general managers, producers and marketers to get a read on the situation and establish messaging in response to COVID-19.
Thus far there is no blanket policy on ticket refunds or exchanges, as that is left up to the individual productions and the point of purchase. A number of school groups have already cancelled, St. Martin noted.
Similarly, League recommended to producers Friday that shows limit backstage visitors and rethink their policies around greeting fans at the stage door. So far, about half of the productions are not signing autographs or taking selfies — including “Hadestown” — while the other half are continuing until it becomes a problem, she said.
“I think it may be a moving target,” St. Martin said.
Theater owners immediately adopted the cleaning procedures from the Center for Disease Control, she said. Across all theaters, theatergoers will also receive a new cup when refilling their drinks, rather than holding onto the same cup.
The League has also been speaking with hotel associations, the city marketing agency, NYC & Co, and the Society of London Theatre. Though the League continues to monitor the news, St. Martin said she would like Broadway to stay open.
“We want people to have that escape that Broadway always provides, especially during crisis times,” St. Martin said.