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Turning in early on B’way

Producers to move up Tues. curtain time

NEW YORK — Broadway may be turning in early this winter, at least on Tuesday nights.

Disney, Dodger Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh, among other producers, are looking at pushing the curtain times of their shows up an hour to 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights this winter.

Called “Tuesdays at 7,” the early-curtain initiative has been developed by the legit ad firm Serino Coyne and praisery Boneau Bryan-Brown.

“The initiative is based on research commissioned by Disney, the Dodgers and Cameron Mackintosh that found people would prefer earlier curtain times,” says marketer Nancy Coyne. “In addition to families with children, adults liked the idea.”

Publicist Chris Boneau says the early curtain is intended to spur ticket sales. “We chose Tuesday because that is the lowest attended night of the week,” he explains. “People can go to the theater and still be home by 10 p.m.” As for the January start date, he adds, “That’s when the new blocks of tickets go on sale for most shows.”

According to the publicist, whose firm handles both Disney and the Dodgers, most Broadway shows are planning to move up their curtain times on Tuesdays. A few will not, such as “Mamma Mia!,” which has already sold tickets well into 2003.

There is comfort in numbers. Shortly after “Beauty and the Beast” opened in 1994, Disney moved select perfs up 30 minutes. “But it didn’t do well since it was the only show on Broadway with a 7:30 p.m. curtain,” says Boneau.

Coyne offered that, if successful, the new 7 p.m. curtain, could be expanded to include all weeknight perfs.

“Initiatives are often tried with shows in trouble,” she says. “For that reason, you never know if the initiative was flawed or that changing one factor was not enough. But these are hit shows,” she said of participating productions like “The Lion King” and “42nd Street.” “We’ll get a real idea if it works.”

Coyne also points out that an early curtain for “The Lion King” in Los Angeles has proved extremely successful.

Dining out before 7 p.m.?

Times Square eateries are sure to balk at the new curtain time. In the early 1970s, when Broadway pushed its traditional 8:30 p.m. curtain ahead one hour, cries rose up from eateries in the area. Eventually a compromise was reached between the two camps, which is the current 8 p.m. curtain.

Before similar premature complaints ensue, restaurant owners in Times Square might want to check with their gastronomic brethren uptown at Lincoln Center, where the Met, Philharmonic and New York City Opera and Ballet all offer the occasional 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. curtains.

“We notice no difference in our business with the early curtains,” says Steve Rivera, manager of Josephina Restaurant.

“The early curtains are a blessing here at Lincoln Center,” says Mary O’Connor, maitre d’ at Café Fiorello. “We fill up for pre-theater, and then people tend to dine out more after the theater.”

If some Broadway shows move up their curtain and others do not, it could be yet another plus. “The staggered curtain times at Lincoln Center make it easier for us to serve our guests, rather than everyone arriving and leaving at the same time,” says O’Connor.

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