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B’way Gotham haul $2.7 billion a year

League of American Theaters releases study

Broadway contributed $2.7 billion to the Gotham economy in the 1996-97 season, a new economic survey released Monday by the League of American Theaters & Producers. That represents an increase of 37% compared with five years ago, the last time such a study was undertaken.

The unusually high increase of Broadway’s stake in the overall Gotham economy is certainly due in part to an atypically large amount of capital investment made in Broadway in the form of two new Broadway theaters, the Ford Center and the New Amsterdam. It is also no small help that the largest hits on Broadway, “Ragtime” and “The Lion King,” occupy those two theaters, respectively.

The two new theaters brought the total number of Broadway houses to 37, and the cost of building them, as well as the maintenance of all the other houses, made for a total economic impact of $105.7 million.

“The live nature of our craft means that we are making a daily impact on the economy,” said Jed Bernstein, executive director for the League.

Certainly, Broadway shows’ direct expenditures account for some of that figure — $899.3 million to be precise — but it is the ancillary benefits of New York-bound tourists that account for the largest kick.

The study found that those coming to New York did not do so with the intention of sleeping on benches or eating hot dogs: People who came to attend Broadway shows spent $971 million on restaurants, accommodations, transportation and other activities contributing to a total economic impact of $1.7 billion.

And some producers feel that the city isn’t doing enough to recognize that contribution.

“It’s no surprise that the largest tourist attraction in the city is Broadway,” said Bill Haber, producer of the musical “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” adding “The city should be doing whatever it can to promote that.”

More than 45% of Broadway attendees are either international or domestic tourists, according to a separate League study released in March.