Is Brexit good or bad for Broadway and the West End?

Since the citizens of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union last Thursday, there has been a lot of talk about what the Brexit means for the future makeup of the United Kingdom, the political balance of NATO and even the presidential election here in the states.

But what the heck does it mean for Broadway and the West End?

Let’s start with the West End, cuz that one’s easy . . . it’s not good.

More restrictions on border crossing will simply mean fewer people crossing the border (which was one of the reasons for the Brexit in the first place).  And the West End, just like Broadway, relies heavily on the tourist trade.  Except that the UK doesn’t have 50 states like we do . . . so international traffic is even more important.  Fewer tourists mean fewer audiences.  Period.

In addition, leading economists agree that there will be an “immediate slowdown of growth,” and that Britain is going to get poorer.

That means less capital for new businesses (including shows) . . . and less disposable income for the locals to spend on shows.

In the worst case, a recession will hit Britain . . . and the theater industry as well.

Now what about Broadway?

Well, there is an argument that some of the tourists that were thinking about a trip to Londontown might now jump across the pond instead.  (Not only because it’s going to be harder to get to the UK, but I have a feeling a lot of Europeans are just gonna be POed at GB for leaving their club . . . and are gonna take their Euros to someone else’s party).

In the 2014-15 demographic study, we saw 18% of our audience comes from other countries.  I’m predicting that could grow a percentage point or two in the next several years as a result of Brexit.

Creatively, we get a lot of great product from the West End . . . and I’m also predicting that will slow down.  The big non-profits in the UK have received so much government support in the past (making us very jealous), allowing them to develop terrific productions that have proven both artistically and commercially successful, like War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  But, in recessionary times, guess what is the first thing that gets cut from governmental budgets?  A-R-T-S.  Arts.  I’d expect that non-profits will be tightening their budgetary belts.

And, of course, our own stock market is tanking along with the rest of the world markets.  It was down over 600 points on Friday, or a whopping 3.4%, and was down another 260 points yesterday.  That means US citizens are poorer.  And when US citizens are poorer, guess what is the first thing that gets cut from personal budgets?  B-R-O-A-D-W-A-Y.

I expect the markets will stabilize shortly . . . but even if we gain a few European tourists over the next several years, the Brexit is bad for our industry.  And, in a year where I’m already predicting a correction (thanks to the upcoming Olympics and that little election that no one has been talking about), the timing couldn’t have been worse.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.