Gotham may turn into an early town, at least on Broadway.
Disney, Dodger Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh are looking to establish a new curtain time of 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights this winter.
Simply called “Tuesdays at 7,” the early-curtain initiative on Broadway has been developed by the legit firms of Serino Coyne and Boneau Bryan-Brown.
“It is based on research commissioned by Disney, the Dodgers and Cameron Mackintosh which has found that people prefer earlier curtain times,” marketer Nancy Coyne said. “In addition to families with children, adults liked the idea.”
Publicist Chris Boneau said the early curtain is intended to spur ticket sales. “We chose Tuesday because that is the lowest attended night of the week,” he said. “People can go to the theater and still be home by 10 p.m.” As for the January start date, he explained, “That’s when the new blocks of tickets go on sale for most shows.”
A few holdouts
According to the publicist, whose firm reps both Disney and the Dodgers, most Broadway shows are planning to move up their curtain times on Tuesdays this winter. 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,” Boneau said.
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 said. “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 Phantom of the Opera,” “The Lion King” and “42nd Street.” “We’ll get a real idea if it works.”
Coyne also pointed 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 arise, 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 and 7:30 p.m. curtains.
“We notice no difference in our business with the early curtains,” said Steve Rivera, manager of Josephina Restaurant.
“The early curtains are a blessing here at Lincoln Center,” said Mary O’Connor, maitre d’ at Cafe 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,” O’Connor said.