New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the near-immediate shutdown of Broadway due to growing coronavirus concerns. The shutdown will go into effect at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on Thursday, March 12 and is expected to last through Easter, which falls on Sunday, April 12. This is the first time a major, prolonged shuttering on Broadway has occurred since the 19-day stagehand strike of 2007.
Theater-focused outlet Playbill and New York Times’ Albany bureau chief Jesse McKinley broke the news online and via Twitter, respectively, on Thursday afternoon. Per Playbill, Cuomo declared in a press conference that gatherings of no more than 500 are allowed, with the exception of gatherings in hospitals, schools, mass transit, and nursing homes. This, of course, directly affects Broadway, where theaters have 500 seats or more and are designed to be communal spaces. In addition to frequent hand-washing, one of the many health pre-cautions being shared with the public is to practice social distancing, which means any kind of close-quarters contact with others is not encouraged.
BREAKING: @NYGovCuomo announces almost-immediate closing of Broadway, the city's largest tourist industry. 5 PM tonight.
— Jesse McKinley (@jessemckinley) March 12, 2020
Among the key decision-makers on this initiative is the Broadway League, a trade organization representing theaters owners and producers. Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League, said in an official statement:
“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals. Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
Broadway comprises a massive part of New York City’s tourism industry and is essentially always running thanks to matinee and evening shows going seven days a week. Closing all shows — musicals and plays — for a month will be a major blow to each respective show currently showing or set to premiere as well as revenues for New York City’s tourism industry. As Deadline notes in their report, this news is particularly sad for new and ongoing popular shows like The Book of Mormon, Plaza Suite, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and To Kill a Mockingbird. If you are a ticketholder for any Broadway show, Playbill recommends contacting your point of purchase for a refund or exchange.
For more, go here to see which events and movie releases have been postponed or cancelled due to growing coronavirus concerns.