Broadway’s trade group, the League of American Theaters & Producers, has prevailed in two recent decisions – one by the state of New York, the other by the city – that should provide some rare relief to producers. These small but important triumphs have come at a time when the Broadway establishment watched as the Walt Disney Co. extracted major concessions and subsidies in exchange for its commitment to the redevelopment of Times Square.
On Aug. 9, Gov. George Pataki signed into law a bill exempting theatrical limited partnerships from a requirement that details of the partnerships be published in two newspapers once a week for six continuous weeks. The bill is retroactive to October 1994, when the exemption was lost, according to George Wachtel, the league’s director of research and government affairs.
The publishing requirement, which has a history of appearing and disappearing, has been a thorn in producers’ sides for years. The state requires detailed filings with the Attorney General’s office on limited partnerships that include more than 34 investors, and thus the publication of their filings was extremely costly. Theatrical limited partnerships were exempted from the requirement for many years, but in 1991 the league was caught off-guard when the state’s Limited Partnership Act was revised and the exemption was dropped.
A year later, with the help of State Sen. Roy Goodman and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried – both longtime supporters of the Broadway community – the exemption was reinstated. But last October, a new Limited Liability Company Law dropped the exemption again. The latest legislation, spurred by the campaigning of Broadway’s leaders as well as a number of sympathetic state legislators, is expected to save producers as much as $6,000 per show in pre-production expenses.
Tax law revised
An even more significant amount will be saved by the city’s elimination of the commercial rent tax on new shows for the first year of their run. The repeal went into effect June 1.
“The aim of this measure is to help productions recoup their investments faster, thereby encouraging future investment,” wrote John S. Dyson, deputy mayor for finance and economic development, in explaining the ruling. Wachtel says the exemption will save producers $1 million a year. This victory, too, was achieved by a consortium of diverse interests, including members of the league, representatives from the major Broadway unions and the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater & Broadcasting.
Dyson, Goodman and Gottfried also have been instrumental in proposing another cost-saving piece of legislation, currently pending, that would exempt legit productions from a 4% sales tax on the creation of sets and costumes – exemptions, Dyson notes, already enjoyed by film producers.