The bright lights of Broadway will remain dimmed until at least January 2021, the Broadway League announced Monday.
The decision to cancel performances through the remainder of 2020 comes as the industry continues to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic. In the statement, Broadway League Chairman of the Board Thomas Schumacher noted that the safety of theater workers and audiences remains the national trade association’s “highest priority,” adding that a return to the stage will only occur “when it’s safe to do so.”
“One thing is for sure, when we return we will be stronger and more needed than ever,” Schumacher said.
Broadway theaters will offer refunds and exchanges for tickets scheduled through Jan. 3, 2021, the statement explained. The League said it expects shows to begin performances “over a series of rolling dates” starting early next year — with tickets for the winter and spring seasons going on sale sometime in the coming weeks.
“The Broadway experience can be deeply personal but it is also, crucially, communal,” Schumacher said. “The alchemy of 1,000 strangers bonding into a single audience fueling each performer on stage and behind the scenes will be possible again when Broadway theatres can safely host full houses.”
While the industry plots potential future dates to raise curtains, the League stated that it will continue to work with city and state officials on safety precautions — including screening, testing, cleaning and sanitizing measures — for inside theaters and backstage areas.
“Our membership is working closely with the theatrical unions and in concert with key experts and some of the greatest minds inside and outside of the industry to explore protocols for all aspects of reopening,” Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said in the statement. “We are focused on identifying and implementing necessary measures that will enable us to resume performances safely for Broadway audiences and employees.”
When Broadway’s 41 theaters went dark March 12, there were 31 productions running, with 8 new shows in previews. The move — a precaution taken to help slow the spread of the coronavirus — derailed eight productions preparing to make their spring debuts.
Since the ensuing closures, Disney’s “Frozen” and the yet-to-be-opened plays “Hangmen” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” announced that they would be canceled permanently. Other productions, such as “Birthday Candles” (starring Debra Messing) and “Caroline, or Change,” have been pushed back to 2021.
The financial fallout facing the Broadway industry — which contributed $14.7 billion to the New York City economy in the 2018-2019 season, according to the League — is echoed abroad. In a letter urging the government to intervene, cultural leaders in the United Kingdom warned that the performing arts industry was on the “brink of ruin,” citing data from the UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre that predicts 70% of the country’s venues will run out of funds by the end of the year without aid.
“We are determined to bring back the people who rely on this industry for their livelihood, and to welcome back all those who love this vital part of New York City, as soon as it is safe to do so,” St. Martin said in the Broadway League announcement. “As so many of us in the Broadway community have been saying during this time — [w]e’ll be back, and we have so many more stories to tell.”