B’way mulls market

Producers ponder impact of slide

NEW YORK — The market’s mammoth plunge Monday did little to comfort Broadway producers who were already smarting from a down week on the White Way.

While many say the Dow’s 512-point plunge Monday puts the hurt on as-yet-unopened productions, it will likely do little to dent Broadway attendance, which fell last week. Broadway grosses were down $851,257 the week of Aug. 24-30, totaling $9,061,959 at the tail end of the tourist season.

“I think it could hurt Broadway in two ways,” said Roger Berlind, a director of Lehman Bros. and Broadway producer of such fare as “City of Angels” and “A View From the Bridge.”

“A lot of people will be saying ‘Damn, that stock I’ve always wanted to buy is 40% cheaper now.’ There’s a very competitive investment environment now, and people will be more likely to look at the risk-reward ratio. Investing in Broadway is always precarious,” he said. “When you buy Microsoft, there’s not the chance you can be wiped out in the first week, which is always the case on Broadway.”

The second way Broadway can get hurt, Berlind said, is that the market’s freefall over the past two weeks may have simply reduced the paper value of Wall Streeters who may not be investing in Broadway — or anywhere else for now. Meanwhile, several other producers conceded while the news was bad for new productions, it would not likely hurt those musicals already open or with funding in place.

“I’d hate to be raising money right now,” said Rodger Hess, a producer of “Wait Until Dark” and “1776” this past season. “But I don’t think it will hurt attendance. I’ve been in cities where unemployment was at 35%, and we still did great. Entertainment is one of the last things people seem to cut back on.”

“If people want to invest in Broadway, you can’t make ’em. But I don’t think it’s going to have any effect. People invest on Broadway to leverage their ideas, to have fun, to have an adventure. And it has nothing to do with how the market is,” contended Bruce Lazarus an Off-Broadway producer and former director business and legal affairs for Disney Theatricals.

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