It's been a very long intermission for Broadway during the pandemic, but the curtain will indeed rise on Act II: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently announced a plan to vaccinate theater professionals in the coming weeks.
There will be a dedicated vaccination site in Midtown for the Broadway crowd, as well as a mobile vaccination unit for off-Broadway professionals. Additionally, there will be pop-up testing sites near theaters. Mayor de Blasio has requested safety protocol plans for crowd management before and after shows -- a must, given that sidewalks are overflowing with theatergoers at showtime.
The vaccine sites will help get theatre professionals back to work safely, but there are also plans in place to keep audiences safe. Mayor de Blasio has asked for guidance from New York state officials regarding mask usage regulations for theater workers as well as requiring proof of vaccination or negative test results of show attendees.
A much-needed boost to the city's culture and economy
Broadway's absence has been dreary, not only for the city's culture but its economy as well. The Broadway League, an organization that represents theaters and producers, reports the 2018-2019 season ushered in a record-breaking 14.8 million theatergoers. About 35% of attendees were from the New York City area, while the rest were tourists -- 46% came from other states and 19% from outside the U.S.
All told, that Broadway season infused $14.7 billion into the New York City economy and kept close to 97,000 theater professionals employed. It's no wonder that Mayor de Blasio is pushing to light up those marquees again.
While movie theaters can open to partial capacity to keep patrons socially distanced, the audience is only watching a performance on the screen. Social distancing was never quite an option for Broadway's live performances, which employ live performers and stagehands interacting up close and personal.
To be fair, not many aside from the Phantom of the Opera can pull off wearing a mask during a performance. By keeping performers and audiences COVID-19-free, it will be a lot safer to pack those crowds into the theaters again.
The revival of NYC's hospitality industry
While performers, musicians, stagehands, and other theater professionals will certainly applaud the return of Broadway, so will the owners and employees of the city's vast number of restaurants, bars, and hotels. A hot Broadway season meant full restaurants and booked hotels, and the shutdown made for a very sad-looking Midtown Manhattan. If all goes well with this vaccine rollout, the area can be thriving once more.
The lights on Broadway have been off since March 12, 2020. As of now, shows have been canceled through May 31. There has been no specific reopening date set, though de Blasio has said September is the goal. That will mean Broadway will have been closed for 18 months -- a far too dramatic turn of events, even for theater.
Broadway is not throwing away its shot
While many saw Broadway's closing as a loss of entertainment, it's also been a loss of livelihood for tens of thousands of people. The return of Broadway will not only get performers singing and dancing again, but it will also boost hotel and restaurant reservations once more. And that's also great news for real estate investors in these spaces.