Broadway theaters currently require patrons to provide proof of vaccination and to wear masks. (Photo: Emilio Madrid)

Broadway theaters will keep mask requirements for audience members through at least May 31, but will soon leave vaccination checks up to the theater owners, the Broadway League announced Friday.

After April 30, 2022, “many theaters” may no longer require audience members to show proof of vaccination for entry, according to the League. Among the major theater owners, the Shubert Organization, which owns 17 theaters, and the Nederlander Organization, which owns nine, will not require proof of vaccination from patrons starting May 1.

Disney Theatrical said it will drop its vaccine requirement at the New Amsterdam Theatre, where “Aladdin” is currently playing, in May.

Roundabout Theatre Company will maintain the vaccine mandate at its American Airlines Theatre for the run of “Birthday Candles,” which is currently set to close on May 29. The theater owner is allowing its other tenants to decide whether to require proof of vaccination after April 30. Both “Mrs. Doubtfire,” playing at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, and “The Minutes” at Studio 54 will drop their vaccination requirements.

Manhattan Theatre Club, which owns the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway, will keep its vaccination requirement through the run of “How I Learned to Drive.” Lincoln Center Theater, which is currently producing “Skin of Our Teeth” at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, will keep its vaccination requirement.

The Broadway League will announce any updates to masking protocols in May. Broadway’s mask and vaccination policy has been in place since July 30, 2021.

“Since resuming performances last fall, over five million attendees have seen a Broadway show, and the safety and security of our cast, crew, and audience has been our top priority. Our intention is that by maintaining strict audience masking through at least the month of May, we will continue that track record of safety for all. And of course, we urge everyone to get vaccinated,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.

The update to Broadway protocols comes after Mayor Eric Adams removed the city’s vaccine requirement for indoor venues, restaurants and other establishments in March. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul lifted the statewide mask-or-vaccine mandate in February.

Epidemiologist Blythe Adamson, who is working with more than a dozen Broadway productions on COVID-19 policies, said she supports the League’s decision to maintain masking, but eliminate proof of vaccination for audience members. Masking remains one of the best tools for reducing transmission of COVID-19 in a theater, she said, while being fully vaccinated does not necessarily prevent transmission of the virus. 

“The vaccine is incredibly effective at protecting an individual person’s health,” Adamson said. “And the masks are incredibly effective at preventing the spread of the virus between people.”

Broadway is one of the few industries in New York City to maintain a masking requirement. That decision comes as COVID-19 cases in the city and on Broadway are on the rise. “A Strange Loop,” “Macbeth,” “Plaza Suite” and “Paradise Square” have recently canceled performances due to positive COVID-19 cases in the companies.

While case numbers are rising, Adamson said she has been encouraged by the fact that the number of hospitalizations and deaths have not been increasing at the same pace. Still, it’s too early to tell how the numbers will trend. And Adamson said she has seen many cases of individuals who contracted the BA.1 variant of omicron earlier this winter and have recently become infected with the new variant, BA.2, suggesting that previous infection did not provide total immunity. 

“What I’m seeing is that we are at an increasing place right now, perhaps at the beginning of another surge, ” Adamson said. “But we don’t yet know how it will compare to the December-January omicron.”

The update to audience protocols do not impact those currently in place for workers on Broadway shows — all workers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Broadway League and Actors’ Equity are working on an update to the current COVID-19 safety protocols, which are set to expire later this month.