Will the Vaccine mean Broadway will come back early?

It’s been a good week for the theater world.
First, we had the election. Enough said.
Second, Pfizer announced a vaccine that was 90% (!) effective in preventing Covid-19.  (To put that in perspective, the FDA stated they’d take a shot on a shot that was 50% effective.)
“The vaccine is on its way, folks,” he said, “We’re going to get over this together!” 
You could hear the sigh of relief from TheaterMakers all over the planet.
You could also hear emails whizzing through cyberspace from Producer, Directors, Agents, Actors, etc, wondering, “Does this mean we can get back to work sooner?”
Good question.
Currently, on Broadway, customers can get refunds and exchanges through May 31st. That never meant we’d open up right after, however. And most of us in the industry expected a fall return. (I predicted a November 11th curtain-up, but boy o’ effin’ boy would I SO love to be wrong about that one).
But could the news that Americans could get vaccinated by April keep us on track for a June return? In time for the more bountiful summer?
Or could some shows open even earlier? If all Americans could get vaccinated by April, does that mean half could have doses by March? Could the state allow a few shows to open under those circumstances (along with a zillion other protocols)?
I know I’m excited about the vaccine and what it could mean for the industry, as you can tell from the tone of my typing.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’re theater people. Which means we can let our emotions overwhelm reason.  So it’s important we take a breath, especially when we’re dealing with something as dangerous as Covid-19, and as fragile as the Broadway economic model.
A few things:
First, while I trust the CEO of Pfizer (you think he would have released this data to the world if he wasn’t sure?), and I trust Dr. Fauci, there are a few more steps to go with the FDA before Pfizer gets the green light.  Monday’s breaking news was only a press release.  And every Broadway Producer knows a press release is just a press release.  
Second, no matter how good the vaccine is, it’s ZERO percent effective if people don’t take it. (Expect one heck of a marketing campaign from the government to push inoculation.) 
Third, we’re in the middle of a rising second wave EVERYWHERE in this country. If we don’t clamp this one down, it will be hard for any of our powers-that-be to focus on lifting restrictions.
Fourth, for Broadway to return, it has to be safe for its audiences and it has to be safe at the box office. And since our audiences are 65% tourists, I wouldn’t expect a full-blown opening day for all the Broadway shows the second that we are approved to open. Some shows will open asap, of course (expect Disney to lead the way), but others will wait until they know it’s safe in the audience and for their bottom line.  These shows will wade into the waters as well (perhaps with fewer than eight shows a week).
So, based on the information announced in the last few days, there’s now a good ‘shot’ (pun intended) that some shows will open for the summer . . . which is so much better than what we all thought a week ago.  Earlier than that is a stretch, but the next few weeks will tell that tale.
But regardless of when we open, the news of the vaccine and Fauci’s statement is like a starter gun going off in the race to get our theaters open again.  There is light at the end of the darkest tunnel ThaterMakers have ever been in.  
And it’s time to run towards that light, like that little girl in Poltergeist.
So, if you’re a Producer, Writer, Director, Actor, or any kind of TheaterMaker . . . the end is in sight. And it’s time to start gearing up for our return.
Because if you don’t, a whole bunch of other TheaterMakers are going to pass you by and grab the opportunities that will be here before we know it.
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I want to thank Pfizer and Dr. Fauci for making their announcement just THREE DAYS before my TheaterMakers Summit. Because if you’re looking to get yourself ready for the theater’s return, there is no better place to be than The TheaterMakers Summit. Join 103 (!) speakers who are as excited as I am to help you make theater in our new world. Click here.

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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.