Curtains Closed on Broadway For Now

Theatergoers are promised refunds for tickets as Broadway is temporarily shut down / Photo by Sudan Ouyang on Unsplash

Broadway theaters shuttered Thursday evening as the coronavirus outbreak escalated in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency for the city and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people, which went into place that same day for theaters. The ban will be put into effect Friday evening for other facilities. The ban exempts schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and mass transit facilities.

All around Times Square, which is typically a bustling tourist hotspot, theaters began posting signs informing the public about their temporary closure. Productions are suspended through April 12, according to a statement from the Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners. Tickets are being refunded. On Thursday evening, many would-be audience members stopped by box offices to hand their tickets over.

“I understand that it’s for everybody’s safety. It’s a lot of people packed into a single space. I just wish I found out sooner,” said Sela Moy, 18. She had purchased her tickets a month ago and had just arrived that morning from Chicago just to watch the “Mean Girls” musical.

The local government’s decision comes days after an usher for two theaters was tested positive for COVID-19. There are now more than 300 cases of the coronavirus in New York, prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare a state of emergency in the city on Thursday. He predicted that the number of cases will escalate to 1,000 by next week.

Those in the theater industry recognize the impetus behind the ban. Actors and actresses shared words of encouragement and hope on social media.

The closure of Broadway, the crown jewel of New York City, is anticipated to have a large negative impact on the local economy. Broadway itself is a more than $1.8 billion industry, attracting nearly 15 million theatergoers last year, according to the Broadway League,.

There are more than 60 million tourists in New York per year, according to the Center for an Urban Future. But an estimated 6 percent drop in tourism, compounded by Broadway’s temporary shutdown, is expected to cause a potential loss of more than $100 million over the monthlong suspension, affecting, among others, the hospitality and restaurant industries.

“I have conflicting emotions about this. I’m sad about the closures, but also recognize that these measures might be necessary,” said Amanda Cestare, an actress and waitress at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a themed diner with singing servers located in the Theater District.

Cestare, who was also auditioning for acting roles on Broadway, hopes that there will be financial relief provided by the government, especially for those in the arts and food industry.

“I need to make sure ends meet,” Cestare said. “I think the diner’s gonna tank, to be honest. But hopefully locals will understand and come support our business. We really depend on tourists here.”