Broadway is back at full capacity this September. How will cast, crew, and audiences stay safe?

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Angie Perrin

Performers take part in a pop-up Broadway performance in anticipation of Broadway reopening in Times Square amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 12, 2021. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Three major Broadway productions — “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and “Wicked” — announced today they will open on September 14. More will follow. And at the insistence of producers, theaters will be at full capacity, especially since their shows are expensive to put on and many run on tight margins.  

Broadway has been dark since last March. Before the pandemic, its 41 theaters took in around $2 billion in ticket sales in 2019.

“The mayor and the governor have been really eager to see Broadway reopen, partly because it's an important source of direct employment and dollars, and partly because it's become a symbol of the city,” says Michael Paulson, theater reporter for the New York Times. “And I think they both think that the reopening of Broadway is an important sign to people outside of New York that New York is back.”

This is also a PR announcement for tourism. Paulson says there were upwards of 60 million tourists in New York in 2019, and that economic source is obviously lagging now. 

The arts also play an emotional and intellectual role in New Yorkers’ quality of life, he points out. 

How will theater-going work? 

Paulson says audiences will sit closely in the theaters and be masked, but it’s unclear whether they must be vaccinated. For cast and crew, vaccinations are expected. Buildings have all been upgraded with modern air conditioning systems. 

“But otherwise, it's going to be back to normal, which has already happened in Australia and will happen in London this summer. And people are hoping that it's going to be okay here in New York as well.”

Smaller off-Broadway theaters have the same timeline too, he points out. 

Will there be changes to pricing? 

“Pricing is going to be a moving target, where shows are going on at roughly the same prices that they were listed before the pandemic. But everybody is quite willing to adjust as needed,” says Paulson. 

In the short term, audiences probably won’t see sky-high prices for shows like “Hamilton,” and it’ll be easier to change tickets or get refunds, he adds.  

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