NEW YORK — By Friday night, 19 hours after a power snafu in the Midwest inadvertently pulled the plug on a large swathe of the Northeast, most of Gotham’s showbiz venues were relit. But they were still nursing hangovers for much of the weekend.
All 23 Broadway shows managed to offer performances Friday night — but just barely: “The Lion King” on West 42nd Street and “Rent” on West 41st Street were the last venues to see power return, at around 4 p.m.
Television, typically the first destination in any crisis, was essentially offline until late Friday afternoon, when Time Warner Cable and Cablevision restored service to the vast majority of their 3 million New York-area customers. TV-deprived Gothamites (some 8% of national TV viewing auds) mostly missed the news coverage of the events unfolding on their own streets, while NBC’s highly anticipated Thursday lineup likely took a big ratings hit.
Major cable news nets like CNN, Fox News and CNBC picked up the local feeds of area broadcasters as backup generators kept stations transmitting despite the inability of local viewers to watch them.
And while Times Square was fully lit by late Friday afternoon, the process of bringing showbiz back to life was a little trickier than simply putting the plug back in the outlet.
Black Thursday, which inspired a virtual citywide street party into the wee hours of Friday morning, was still causing ticketing headaches at both live venues and cinemas into the day Friday.
While Telecharge appears to have been up and selling tickets by noon Friday, Ticketmaster reportedly took longer to get its act together. Some observers say most Ticketmaster terminals didn’t begin to operate until after 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Telecharge services Shubert and Jujamcyn theaters; Ticketmaster handles shows housed in Nederlander venues. These latter theaters include the Richard Rodgers and the Neil Simon, home to “Movin’ Out” and “Hairspray,” which currently operate at 100% capacity. Since those tuners were sold out going into Friday’s performance, their respective B.O. remained unaffected. Shows in Nederlander theaters that had tickets to sell, however, apparently lost sales due to the slow-starting Ticketmaster terminals. One producer, who expected his musical to do over 90% cap on Friday, put actual sales at under 65%.
With no Ticketmaster tickets available early in the afternoon at the Theater Development Fund’s TKTS booth in Times Square, certain impatient theatergoers made other choices, opting to see shows serviced by Telecharge.
The midtown TKTS opened at 10 a.m. Friday, five hours earlier than usual, to handle the 4,500 returned tickets purchased for Thursday night’s performances. On Friday, TKTS sold 4,400 tickets for that night’s perf, down 2,500 from the previous Friday. However, Saturday’s combined matinee and evening perfs saw a whopping 8,300 sold, up nearly 600 from the previous Saturday. The TKTS booth at the South Street Seaport did not reopen until Saturday.
Reps in Ticketmaster’s customer-service department would not comment on the Aug. 15 delay in service. Ticketmaster execs and Nederlander execs could not be reached for comment.
Overall, city officials put total losses for the blackout at around $800 million in lost tax and other revenue. The loss of Thursday performances cost Broadway producers an estimated $1 million in ticket sales.
Movie theaters — at least those in parts of town with electricity and air conditioning — may have even gotten a Friday matinee lift thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s urging Gothamites to treat Friday as a “snow day.” Residents, who less than 12 hours before had been bonding with neighbors over warm beer on flashlit stoops, headed to the movies. At the Loews on Broadway and 68th Street, in one of the first neighborhoods to regain power, the line coiled out onto the street to see “Freaky Friday” and “Uptown Girls.”
“People are hysterical, and they don’t want to stay home,” a ticket-taker said.
By 2 p.m. Friday, the theater was more or less up and operating, though handicapped by a broken down computer system that prevented advance ticket sales and, in some cases, by dark concession stands due in part to staff shortages.
The subway was not fully functional until Saturday.
“Most workers didn’t come in today,” said a ticket taker at the 68th street Multiplex, noting that many staff were stuck out in the boroughs without electricity or water. That explained the two dark concession stands and the Imax theater that was closed, both due to staff shortages.
At Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, Thursday evening perfs of the Bob Hope tribute film “Beau James” and “Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music” were cancelled, along with “Independents Night,” a program for indie filmmakers co-sponsored by the IFP.
Downtown the Angelika Film Center did not get lights until around 6 p.m. Friday. The only showings that day were the 10 o’clock and midnight performances.
The problem for many cinema and live entertainment venues was not so much the lights but the logistics.
Even on Saturday, it wasn’t until 6 p.m. that credit card and advance ticket sales could proceed. “Some banks haven’t been online until today,” a manager said, who described his workday as “as normal as we can expect.”
At all theaters, ticket holders with advance tickets for cancelled shows received exchange passes.
A less even exchange was available for Bob Dylan fans with tickets to his show at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The Thursday perf was cancelled and rescheduled for Friday, which was then called off because systems at the venue were not fully restored. A new date has yet to be announced.
At the Beacon Theater, although power was restored by Friday morning, computers remained down throughout the day, so tickets could be purchased only via Ticketmaster.
At Lincoln Center Thursday’s opera perf of “Il Re Pastore” was “the only casualty,” a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Off Broadway continued to get the fuzzy stick of the legit lollipop. Power in Chelsea and parts of the Village did not return until 9 p.m., forcing many downtown theaters to cancel Friday night’s perf as well. After 9/11, Off Broadway also missed multiple perfs when the city closed the area of Manhattan below 14th Street for several days. Off Broadway biz has remained sluggish ever since.
The Mayor’s Office for Film & TV was forced to set up shop on the street in front of the Ed Sullivan theater to accept and process film permits, including one to begin location shoots for “Laws of Attraction.” The office’s spokesman also noted that current productions were able to move forward more or less as planned, as Mary Louise Parker starrer “Best Thief in the World” shot a tunnel scene Friday in Manhattan on 173rd Street.
(Nicole LaPorte contributed to this report.)