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‘No one wants to admit they’re not selling tickets’: Manhattan theaters and entertainment venues still struggling

In September, New York City’s theater world was shocked. Broadway’s longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, has announced that it will close after his 35 years of ticket sales and billions of dollars in The Great His White His Way.

In the months leading up to its announcement, the Phantom often filled less than 80% of the seats in the homes of 1,600 people, according to data compiled by Playbill. The show wasn’t making enough money to offset its operating costs — and many in the local theater community saw that as a bad sign.

What if one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals didn’t survive?

Closing Notice Paper Broadway

Two new shows were set earlier this month, ‘KPOP’ and ‘Ain’t No Mo’ close The date is just a few weeks after opening. From December 5 to 11, “Ain’t No Mo” made just $164,000 and audience numbers were less than half of theater capacity. “KPOP” was filling the house, but it still only made $281,000.

In the same week, “The Music Man” topped the charts by grossing over $3 million. Other top-grossing shows like “Hamilton,” “SIX,” “Aladdin,” and “Funny Girl,” grossed him $2 million from $1.4 million.

More shows are set to wrap up in the first few weeks of January, including ‘The Music Man,’ ‘A Strange Loop,’ ‘Beetlejuice,’ and ‘1776.’ All but one just opened this year.

phantom of the opera
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ sees increased ticket sales after its closing announcement and stays open for months longer than planned, but most other shows don’t receive the same funding and support. . Dean Moses

The bad news continued beyond Broadway. Carolyn’s On His Broadway, the famous comedy club just north of Times Square, will be the last comedian to host after his landlord’s death on December 31st. raised the rent“Off-Broadway”stomp,‘, which has been a local theater staple for nearly 30 years, announced it would be closing in January.

Nearly three years after the pandemic closed New York City’s theaters and entertainment venues, the future of the local theater and entertainment industry is still far from complete.

Pandemic ‘Great Accelerator’ in Theater’s Predicament

The very nature of live entertainment, its reliance on tightly packed indoor crowds, meant it was essentially ostracized during the pandemic. A small venue partial volume Spring 2021 marks over a year since the original shutdown.crowd size and revenue under At institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera House.

“No one wants to admit they’re not selling tickets,” said Karen Greco, who worked in public relations and communications for Off-Broadway theaters for 20 years before leaving Broadway in 2020. I’ll admit… sales have plummeted and viewers aren’t coming back. I think it’s the same off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway, but nobody wants to talk about it. ”

Greco said the pandemic has “greatly accelerated” existing problems in New York City theaters. With Broadway ticket prices skyrocketing, audiences attended shows less frequently. Off-Broadway shows offer a more affordable option, but usually cater to a much smaller and niche audience.

Broadway’s struggles are more visible, but the problems facing non-Broadway theaters are more acute. Many have already been operating to a meager margin from the start, and some don’t even own the theater space. It’s the future of theater itself and the community built around it.

Step on the Broadway theater sign
An Off-Broadway staple, STOMP will come to an end next month after 30 long years. Dean Moses

“Private funding can definitely keep them alive, but I think theaters will need ticket sales more and more as funding increases,” Greco said.

A large, well-equipped Off-Broadway theater like The Public Theater or Playwrights Horizons will suffice for that. Overlooking the barrel is a much smaller house.

“What if the kind landlord who gave them space to sing decides it’s time to sell out and a hedge fund buys it?” Greco said. “Or for a touring company that doesn’t have space, a lot of theater rentals. He’s run out of space, where are they going?”

Off-Broadway theaters work to keep communities alive

In Alphabet City, Wild Project, a small theater and arts venue aimed at providing space for queer and BIPOC artists, seeks to secure its future and the future of the artists it supports. The theater opened in his 2007 and for most of that time has served primarily as a rental theater with no dedicated space for artists and small theater companies.

In 2017, the wild project (sic) changed its focus. The team wanted to start giving back more to the community, and gaining non-profit status provided grants for programming.

After the worst of the pandemic and before grant money started rolling in, wild projects relied on funds from renting theaters to survive. In 2020, the organization survived thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program and low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. They survived his 2021 with his SBA Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

Ana Mari de Quesada said: “I think the immediate aftermath of the pandemic is when we really started raising money to build the program because we don’t own the building. , because I was constantly fighting rent increases at my lease.” , the organization’s Producing Artistic Director. “There was a 12-16% rent increase each year, which was insane. I did.”

The funding allowed them to produce their first original work earlier this year. It’s the new musical “F**k 7th Grade” by songwriter Jill Sobre. They were also able to provide more support to artists who still rented out theaters.

Executive producer Tom Escobar said the first full-year operation after the pandemic shutdown was surprisingly fruitful, especially as other smaller theaters struggle to win back audiences.

music box theater
The music box theater remains empty. Our last resident, Dear Evan Hansen, closed this year and the new show has yet to move.Dean Moses

All of this, along with funding last summer to partner with a local public school to offer a summer program, has been great, says de Quesada.

“We started a capital campaign in February of this year because we are looking to buy a building and the landlord wants to buy our building,” she said. “With all this exciting stuff, we’re still at our mercy, which means we can lose our homes. We have a very limited amount of time to gather resources and try to raise money.”

Buying a building and keeping it in business means more to a wild project than protecting its own future. theater community resources are becoming scarcer.

“We feel the need to act quickly,” Escovar said. “We want to make sure that we are here. I feel that business is declining left and right, especially in the East Village.”

Wild Project still has a year left on its lease and they hope to have enough money to make an offer before the building hits the market and is bought out by a developer.

Winter is the real test

With the flu, COVID, and RSV “triple plague” sweeping through town, it could be another challenging season for live entertainment.Health Authorities Recommend Again indoor maskand inflation is still high.

“I think people want to go back to theater, both on Broadway and in independent venues like this,” Escobar said. “I think there are still a lot of things that are negatively affecting the city right now, especially towards winter. I think the real test will come in winter.”

people in times square
Audiences want to come back, Escovar said, but there are barriers, especially cost and the ongoing pandemic. Dean Moses

Greco, who now lives in Rhode Island and writes about theater, said he’s seeing a renaissance of good production in theater in areas outside of New York. We are doing a new show. It’s exactly what Manhattan’s bustling theater community dreamed of.

“[It has] It’s really cool to see and at the same time really frustrating to see a collapse in a small ecosystem in New York,” she said. I shouldn’t say it disappears — New York is New York and will always be there, but it will look very different, and I think it will look smaller.”

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