Broadway Watches the Skies with a Blizzard on the Way

With a major winter storm expected to hammer the east coast this weekend, Broadway is bracing for potentially disruptive snow — but holding out hope that New York will escape the worst of it.

The snowstorm, currently expected to arrive in the area early Saturday and dump somewhere between 8″ and 12″ onto the city, looks inconveniently poised to hit the Broadway box office where it hurts, on a two-show weekend day that is usually the most profitable day of the week. But with meteorologists predicting that the storm will hit hardest south of the New York area, it might be the hype that ends up being most damaging to Broadway sales: As media outlets talk up the storm, local and tri-state audiences will likely opt to stay in all weekend rather than brave the elements to catch a show.

That said, Broadway almost never goes dark for snow, and there are no preparations being made to do so at the moment, according to the Broadway League. In general, a spirit of “the show must go on” prevails — and it almost always does, except in cases when warnings from the mayor’s office or the transportation authority prompt the League to action.

That’s what happened last year, when weather reports predicting 20″ to 30″ of snow led Broadway to shut down (and also darkened other live performances, as well as movie screenings). But that was an extremely rare case; prior to that, Broadway had more often gone dark for hurricanes.

Meanwhile, BroadwayCon, the inaugural Broadway fan convention scheduled for Jan. 22-24, still expects around 5,000 attendees over the course of the weekend, and all events (which take place at a midtown hotel) are still a go.

Blizzards are just one of the annual hazards that contribute to the post-holiday lull in sales that afflicts Broadway every year. Adverse weather, or the threat of it, can deter walk-up business and tri-state travel at a time when the tourist tide that keeps Broadway in profit is already at a low. Also around this time, the Super Bowl (scheduled this year for Feb. 7) tends to whittle down receipts, too.

In an effort to counteract such annual slowdowns, Broadway has created a number of initiatives to help keep attendance up. The annual Broadway Week, a two-week-long, two-for-one ticket program, runs Jan. 19-Feb 5 this year, and Kids’ Night on Broadway, a two-for-one parent-child program, is scheduled for Feb. 9.

Although New York City is currently on high snow alert for the weekend, there haven’t been any major cancellations yet. Broadway will know the full box office effect of the storm once grosses for the week come in on Monday.

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