February 16, 2024

Lights out: Broadway shows close prematurely

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Broadway is recovering from the pandemic, but still admissions for the 2022-23 were nearly 17% lower than the record-breaking pre-pandemic levels of the 2018-19 season.

Picture by: Kevin Poh

Since its post-pandemic return, Broadway has struggled to reach its previous levels of success.

With low audience levels causing a lack of funds to power the shows, producers are forced to close shows much earlier than intended.

But it’s not only tourists and locals being affected by these closings: theatre employees, from the ticket salespeople to the actors struggling to make ends meet because of premature contract terminations.

According to the Broadway League, the National Trade Association of the theatre industry, there were 12.3mn admissions during the 2022-2023 season, which is 16.8% less than the 2018-2019 season, the last before the global pandemic.

Because the audiences are smaller, Broadway shows are suffering from early closures. New musicals such as Harmony, which played 120 performances, and KPOP, which lasted only 17 performances, closed before they had the chance to gain acclaim, which, according to the Broadway League, is currently the main draw to audiences.

However, it is not just new musicals lacking big names that are closing early: Ohio State Murders, starring Audra McDonald, closed around a month prior than planned, and The Phantom of the Opera, one of the longest running shows, closed on April 16, 2023 because of financing problems.

Another struggle that Broadway shows face is the formation of strikes. After the pandemic, many workers want more protections to ensure their stability in these uncertain times.

Broadway stagehands and theatre workers continued the trend of the summer of strikes in 2023, with a deal being reached between International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and management of Disney Theatrical and the Broadway League. As of February 12, 2024, a strike that could pause or delay developmental workshops for plays and musicals was authorised by the Actors’ Equity, it is led by the labour union representing those who work in live theatrical performance.

The most recent Development Agreement expired on February 11, 2024, and terms have not yet been reached for a new agreement between the union and the Broadway League.

Jason Laks, the Executive Vice President of Labor Relations from the Broadway League General Counsel, released a statement explaining that these negotiations will have no direct impact on currently running Broadway shows and national tours. Instead, the negotiations are over the short-term employment of musicals and plays in early stages of development.

It is not only Broadway that has been suffering from reduced numbers: New York City tourism as a whole has decreased since the pandemic. The total number of tourists in 2019 was 66.6m visitors, which decreased to 22.3m in 2020 due to the coronavirus. In 2023, tourism levels were higher again at 60m people, but this three year recovery process has still not returned tourist levels to what they had been.

Despite the recent struggles, many shows continue to open. The Notebook musical had its first preview February 10, 2024 and will open to the public on March 14, 2024. The Great Gatsby musical, after a successful run at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey will transfer to Broadway and have its first preview March 29, 2024 with its opening on April 25, 2024.

Additionally, other long-running shows are celebrating landmarks. Wicked celebrated 20 years on Broadway on October 30, 2023.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, the president of The Broadway League, Charlotte St. Martin, discussed the future of Broadway: “We are continuing to grow the audience and maintain the ones we get so we are confident that by 2025 or 2026 we should be back to similar attendance.”

Hopefully St. Martin’s estimates are correct, and Broadway is able to continue to grow back to its pre-pandemic levels of success.

Written by:

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Alia Saphier

Publisher

New Jersey, United States

Alia Lael Brühl Saphier was born in 2006 and currently studies in Englewood, New Jersey.  She joined Harbingers’ Magazine in 2023 as a contributor and social media manager. In 2024, she became the publisher.

Alia attends the Manhattan School of Music precollege for classical voice and is an editor for her school’s foreign language magazine. In her free time, she plays the violin, guitar, and ukulele. Her wider interests also include songwriting, reading, traveling, acting, and creative writing.

Alia speaks English, German, and Spanish.

Edited by:

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Sofiya Tkachenko

former Editor-in-chief

Kyiv, Ukraine | Vienna, Austria

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