New Yorkers don’t adjust their attitudes easily, but the financial crisis is forcing a major rethink. And showbiz is right at the center of it.
Autumn in Gotham is when fine arts, prestige movies and the launch of Broadway and TV shows all converge. It’s also when charities realize about 50% of their annual revenues.
There is flopsweat behind the scenes of major galas.
The Samuel Waxman dinner last November, hosted by Chevy Chase, raised $6 million to fight cancer. Back then, Bear Stearns had top earners writing checks and attending by the hundreds. Now, there’s no Bear Stearns. Merrill Lynch and Lehman Bros. (remember them?) were also major donors. While new parents Bank of America and Barclays say they will honor existing pledges, certainty is not exactly the word of the day.
“People still have money, but it’s not cool to show off at a live event,” says Coppy Holzman, a former Web and retail chief exec who founded Charity Buzz, a Web-based auction service tied into a lot of galas. “We deal with a lot of celebrities and affluent people, and the reasons for their charity work vary. Some do it because they want to give but some are just in it for social recognition. A few in the latter group are falling by the wayside.”
At least the Oscar campaign circuit in Gotham seems fairly unaffected thus far, judging by the flurry of invitations that started well before the city’s unofficial launch of Oscar season, the Sept. 26 opening of the New York Film Festival.
“That money had to be budgeted months ago, before it got this bad,” says a consultant. “If we enter a prolonged recession, that’s when you could see tactics change.”
But Broadway is vulnerable in the near term. Investors have already balked at funding planned revivals of “For Colored Girls …” and “Godspell.” Both have been scratched from the season schedule.
More recently, concerns about ticket sales have surfaced. If holiday travel slumps, all those tuners that rely on tourist ticketbuyers could face a chilly winter.
Producers of the Rialto tuner of “Legally Blonde” decided to close the show Oct. 12 rather than hold out for the traditional holiday B.O. boost, which has begun to look less certain.
“I’m scared to bank on it, given what’s going on,” says “Blonde” producer Hal Luftig.