After the World Trade Center attacks, Broadway braced itself for difficult times, but six months after the economic threat, Broadway is giving back.
In fall 2001, in order to ensure that the most vulnerable shows would remain open, New York City purchased $2.5 million worth of tickets to Contact, Hedda Gabbler, Les Misérables, The Music Man, The Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret Chicago, The Full Monty, Proof, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife and Urinetown. The bulk of the tickets were redeployed to the Twin Towers Fund and to "Spend Your Regards to Broadway," a program designed to stimulate spending in other tourism sectors.
This effort was so successful that the shows have now returned 44 percent of the original stipend — $1 million — back to the city. In a March 25 press conference, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that this returned money would be used to help support other arts organizations — including nonprofit theatres — that have been suffering since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theatres and Producers, presented a $1 million check to the mayor on behalf of the commercial theatre community. "This is a good example of the way things should work," Bernstein said. "The private sector [Broadway] helped itself first — then sought out the support of the city to assist in stimulating an economic recovery for the tourism industry as a whole, using Broadway as a linchpin. With a better than anticipated winter, we are happy to return the funds enabling the city to reinvest in the non-profit arts sector."
The beneficiaries of the returned funds will include The Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York, the American Music Center, the New York Foundation for the Arts, ArtsConnection, the Center for Arts Education, Young Audiences and Studio in the Schools. Mayor Bloomberg also spoke about the organizations that will benefit from the $1 million now available: "Non-profit arts organizations are a vital component of the city's cultural life," he explained, "and represent the diversity of its vibrant artistic community. We are happy to redirect these funds to non-profit cultural institutions that have been suffering from the effects of the weakened economy." The League's Bernstein also commented that the theatre community is hopeful about this Broadway season. He concluded, "We look to this season with guarded optimism, as tourism in the city is still down, historically representing 50 percent or more of our audience. We are pleased with Broadway's success in keeping so many long-running productions playing and are grateful to the city for their support. We could not have come through this unpredictable time without their support and additional support by the state, our corporate sponsors and the people of New York. We are pleased to be able to participate in the reallocation of the funds to other deserving arts organizations."
—By Andrew Gans