You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Safe is Broadway? What Theaters Do to Keep Audiences Secure

No one on Broadway wants to talk about security concerns and safety precautions — a silence that’s only amplified by the fact that high ticket prices and a largely affluent clientele make Broadway easy to overlook as a perfect storm of worry: A cluster of small, high-profile targets, right in the middle of tourist-magnet Times Square, where big-name celebrities onstage are increasingly common.

But in the wake of terror attacks in cities including Brussels and Paris, executives in the theater industry find themselves torn between reassuring the public that they’re doing all they can to ensure their safety, and keeping quiet about specific measures in place so as not to tip their hand.

There are no metal detectors or security wands on Broadway. Instead, the most visible signs of safety come in the security guards who check all theatergoers’ bags manually. In recent months, bomb-sniffing dogs have occasionally joined them. But compared to the kind of measures in place at stadium music events (think Madison Square Garden) or even some Manhattan multiplexes on a crowded Saturday night, these measures can come off as relaxed. 

Theater owners and producers push back on that notion, telling Variety there are less visible precautions in place too. Ticketbuyers are now warned in advance that coat checks at Broadway theaters will not accept oversized bags or other parcels, and over the last few years, it’s become standard practice for theater personnel to re-verify tickets upon reentry after intermission. Although usually unseen, security guards are present in theaters before, during and after every performance, and in even greater numbers at shows with a major celebrity in the cast.

A Broadway League committee, made up of all the theater owners, meets frequently and regularly, ensuring swift communication among all the constituents. New regulations have been enacted in recent months to increase security at all the entry points of Broadway theaters, although theater execs don’t want to discuss specifics. And since the fall, the New York Police Department has doubled its presence in Times Square to more than 100 officers, now permanently assigned to the area to give them familiarity with the beat.

“Broadway has extensive security procedures in our theaters and in the theater district with the primary purpose of protecting our theatergoers while attending our productions,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.

That’s about all anyone will say on the topic. For one thing, raising the specter of an attack at a theater gives audiences one more reason to want to stay home with Netflix. And more practically, the industry wants to keep quiet on its security measures so as not to alert potential attackers to the precautions in place – and thereby afford an opportunity to devise ways around them.

Despite that public reticence, however, executives and theater owners say security remains a major, ongoing concern, with procedures regularly evaluated and updated. The goal is to ensure that Broadway has the equipment and training in place that, according to risk consultant Jeffrey A. Slotnick, are required to cut down threat levels. “When there’s awareness at all levels — individuals, businesses and law enforcement — it really diminishes the likelihood of a successful attack,” Slotnick said.

More Legit

  • The Cane review

    London Theater Review: 'The Cane'

    “The Cane” lands with a thwack — a timely intervention in a topical debate. By dredging up the specter of corporal punishment in British schools, Mark Ravenhill’s terse allegorical drama asks how we handle historic injustices. Can old complaints be forgot? Or should we seek redress, judging the past by present-day standards? The question’s incisive; [...]

  • Best Theater of 2018

    The Best Theater of 2018

    It’s been a busy year for theater fans on both sides of the Atlantic, with Broadway hosting everything from big-name brands (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “Mean Girls,” “Frozen”) to indie gems (“The Band’s Visit”) and London launching ambitious new plays (“The Inheritance”) and high-profile revivals (“Company”). Below, Variety‘s theater critics — Marilyn Stasio [...]

  • Downstairs Tyne Daly Tim Daly

    Listen: Tyne Daly and Tim Daly on Family, Acting and Living With Demons

    The Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Tyne Daly doesn’t enjoy acting. When her younger brother, Tim Daly, was a kid, he thought actors were just “drunken grownups who wouldn’t feed me.” And the Off Broadway play Tyne and Tim are both starring in, “Downstairs,” has recently taken on some surprising echoes of life in the Trump [...]

  • Broadway sales Fun Home

    Concord Music Buys Samuel French in Theatrical Megadeal

    Concord Music has acquired Samuel French, a theater publisher and licensor that has represented musical hits such as “Fun Home,” and the plays of Tennessee Williams and August Wilson. The music company will form a new unit, Concord Theatricals. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The merged business will boast not only Samuel [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, Magic [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content