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Starting at noon Thursday, remaining seats for five of the hottest tickets on Broadway will be going for a fraction of their normal price, selling for just $50 apiece at all performances through March 29.
Producer Scott Rudin today announced the extraordinary measure of establishing the deep-discount flat rate for all five of his shows, all of which have been playing to sold-out houses or close to it.
The shows includes long-running smash The Book of Mormon, blockbuster drama To Kill a Mockingbird and the recently opened revival of West Side Story, which has been pulling capacity crowds. Also covered are two plays currently in previews and off to a strong start at the box office: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett; and the epic saga of the immigrant brothers who became a capitalist institution, The Lehman Trilogy, directed by Sam Mendes.
Standard top prices for those shows are around $200, which is the norm for Broadway, with premium tickets going for considerably higher.
“These are shows that are playing to fantastically healthy business,” Rudin told The Hollywood Reporter. “My partners and I want the buildings full — even, and especially, during this crisis — and this is the way to ensure it. I don’t want the actors looking into a sea of red velvet. Nobody wants that. I want no deadwood in these buildings — and my colleagues and I want to give people the chance to see these shows when they otherwise might not be able to afford tickets or to even get tickets.”
The move is a direct response to the uncertainties gripping the entertainment sector as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold and the number of ticket cancellations starts to climb.
While Broadway grosses for the week ending Sunday remained steady, even showing a very slight increase from the same period last year, industry insiders have been quietly bracing for a significant impact as group bookings are canceled, along with a high volume of tickets purchased by domestic and international tourists, traditionally the bread and butter of Broadway.
“Nobody knows what this will be or how long it will last,” said Rudin. “I’m assuming it will be a fast burn and that life will soon be back to normal. In the interim, while it’s happening, we want to look after both our colleagues and our customers with as much care as we can. That includes showing up to give great shows to the people who are showing up to see them. That’s our obligation.”
The March-April window ahead of the April 23 cutoff point for 2020 Tony Awards eligibility is stacked with 17 upcoming Broadway openings and as of now, no production has announced plans to postpone. That could change, however, if the situation deteriorates further and more patrons start avoiding crowded theaters.
The Broadway League, the trade organization that represents theater producers and owners, so far has stuck to boilerplate policy announcements in response to the coronavirus scare, indicating increased attention to the cleaning and disinfecting of all public and backstage areas, in line with the standards set by public health authorities. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in the lobbies of all theaters.
In the wake of New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo over the weekend declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak, the League also is urging ticket holders experiencing cold or flu symptoms to stay home and contact their point of purchase for information about exchanges or refunds.
The ritual of crowds gathering at stage doors for post-show autographs and selfies has been suspended at some theaters, while others are continuing the practice but implementing stricter rules, such as avoiding physical contact and having actors use their own Sharpies to sign Playbills rather than pens handed to them by fans.
It seems inevitable that as cancellation numbers increase, more and more previously sold-out shows will be turning up on discount sites or at one of the city’s TKTS booths where same-day tickets can be purchased for anywhere from 25-50 percent off their face value. The plan introduced by Rudin and his producing partners aims to avoid that by keeping their theaters full and selling $50 tickets directly to consumers via the shows’ respective box offices and official ticketing outlets.
“Is it a perfect remedy to what’s going on? No. It can’t be,” said Rudin. “But it’s something. And it protects the experience of the people in the building — both onstage and in the audience — and that is what we are obliged to protect. It’s not a cure but perhaps it’s a salve of a kind.”
“There are no citizens like the citizens of New York in terms of resilience and the ability to handle a crisis,” continued Rudin. “We have seen it over and over and over. New Yorkers have grit and determination and perspicacity. The city has faced obstacles of enormous difficulty for years and years, and that won’t ever change. Neither will the way we react to them. This is a city of largesse and fortitude. That is a fact of life for New York. And Broadway is the heart and soul of New York.”
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