My Perspective on the CoronaVirus and Broadway. (UPDATED)
I started writing this blog over a week ago.
But every time I finished it, the situation changed again, and I had to e-crumple up my work, and start all over again.
When I first set out to address COVID-19 and its effect on Broadway, we hadn’t even had a case in the city yet, never mind a travel ban from Europe. But I knew it was going to have some effect. Since the virus was so concentrated in the far east, the first draft of the blog predicted that the shows with the biggest audiences from those countries would take the biggest hits at the box office, and those shows would actually be our biggest hits. That’d be ok, since they had grosses and brands and reserves to handle that kind of loss of an audience.
Then the bug went to Italy.
So I started a new blog.
This time pulled statistics on the last time we had an epidemic like what so many thought we were experiencing . . . the 2003 SARS crisis. I wanted to see how that virus impacted Broadway grosses.
And the day before I was going to publish that analysis, we had our first case in New York City. (By the way, the answer to how SARS affected the grosses back then? During the dates defined by the CDC as the SARS epidemic, Broadway grosses were flat compared to the same period one year earlier. Now, maybe they would have risen without SARS, but they didn’t regress.)
Obviously, I threw that blog in the e-recycling bin as well, because it became clear . . . and fast . . . that COVID-19 ain’t no SARS. Not only were there only 8,000 cases around the world as opposed to our 127,000 and counting, but the news, anxiety and fear spreads faster today than in 2003. Why? The internet, like we know it today, barely existed in that era. There wasn’t an iPhone. There weren’t apps. And there was no social media. NONE.
So I started a new blog. This time, I was worried about the new shows. New productions all struggle to get their noses in the air (unless there’s some major star headlining), but facing a headwind like this, it would be even harder.
And before I could finish that blog, we got a travel ban, the NBA suspension, and gatherings in some cities restricted to 250 or less.
Broadway is still fighting to stay open, although our Mayor indicated this morning that it’s next on the “stopping” block. (Could we limit it to 250 people per show, separated by 3-4 seats between each order? Should we even bother? Could the risk outweigh the reward? All great questions and I have no doubt that the Broadway League and the Mayor will do what is best for all of us).
So I started writing again.
I finished this late this AM. And honestly, I was going to hit pause on the publish button of this blog again . . . but frankly, I wanted to put something out there stating exactly how I feel and give you my perspective.
So what’s my perspective?
Well, first, we will get through this. Our business and our world may not bounce back right away, but we will wrap our arms around this thing eventually. It will be a slower return to normalcy (a lot of people are comparing how they feel today to the CNN-binge watching days after 9/11 – and I expect just like that, our business will climb back instead of immediately return to pre-virus levels).
And second? Well, it’s simple.
Just like everything we might want from our lives or this world, it’s not up to other people, it’s up to each one of us.
So read the below from the CDC and follow it to the letter. Not sort of follow it. TOTALLY follow it.
This thing is in all of our individual, freshly-washed hands.
UPDATE AS OF 3/12 – 2:35 PM: And things have changed yet again. Due to an order from the Governor and out of an abundance of caution, ALL Broadway shows have been canceled through April 12th effective immediately.
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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.