New York City is taking steps to revive the theater industry, a sector of the city that has been shuttered for more than a year due to the pandemic.
Those efforts, Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed during a press conference on Thursday, include a dedicated COVID-19 vaccination site on Broadway for theater industry workers. There will also be a mobile vaccination unit for off-Broadway employees.
“It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back,” de Blasio said. He’s aiming to reopen Broadway by this fall.
The city is also implementing pop-up coronavirus testing sites by Broadway theaters and are developing protocols to manage crowds before and after shows. Recovery for the Great White Way has been especially difficult because theaters bank on sold-out shows in tightly packed venues to operate profitably. It’s nearly impossible to generate enough revenues to keep the theater lights on and pay cast members, producers and employees with half-full auditoriums. Moreover, theater relies heavily on tourists to buy tickets — and the travel industry has also been impaired by the pandemic.
Theater actor Andre De Shields, who recently won a Tony for the musical “Hadestown,” accompanied de Blasio for the announcement. “Broadway is the cultural spine of this city,” De Shields said.
The Main Stem originally went dark on March 12, and there’s still no formal reopening date. The Broadway League has been working with city and state officials to find the safest way to reopen, including screening and testing for both audience members and employees, enhanced cleaning measures and revamped backstage protocols.
“Today’s announcement is an important recognition from the City of New York that a strong theatre industry means a healthy, strong economy,” said Mary McColl, executive director of Actors’ Equity Association. “Mayor de Blasio clearly understands that we cannot socially distance in our work, making the availability of vaccines and testing critical for maintaining a safe workplace.”