Millennium = Bedlam. Or at least that's the equation the New York City Police Department anticipates for Dec. 31, 1999, New Year's Eve before the year 2000. Partygoers have booked hotel rooms, restaurants and vacation spots months in advance, and theatregoers eager to spend New Year's at a Broadway show also made plans. However, the Police anticipate so many people flooding Times Square to watch the ball drop on Friday night, they requested that all Broadway shows be canceled for that evening. Actor's Equity and The League of American Theatres and Producers reluctantly agreed to that request in the interest of public safety.
Inspector Michael Collins from the Police Department press office told Playbill On-Line (July 7) the request was made because, "There are going to be large crowds in the area.. we'll need to restrict certain streets to vehicles, and getting in and out of theatres would be difficult. We asked they [the theatres] cooperate in easing crowd problems." Collins couldn't give an estimate on the size of the anticipated Times Square crowd.
A Theatre League spokesperson told Playbill On-Line Actor's Equity has been "fine" with the request, though other theatrical unions aren't being so compliant, fearing economic difficulties.
Equity spokesperson Helaine Feldman confirmed that an agreement was reached to cancel shows Dec. 31. "It's already allowed in the rule book that you can run seven performances one week and nine performances the next," said Feldman. "Both Equity and the League are fine with this, but there is some problem with the other unions, which means it goes to a `factfinding committee' of all the unions, scheduled to meet in August and hopefully work it out." Neither Feldman nor the League spokesperson would specify which unions were not fully on board with the agreement.
A spokesperson for Local B183, the Legitimate Theatre Employees' Union (better known as the Usher's, Doormen and Ticket Takers Union) told Playbill On-Line their trouble with the agreement had to do with -- what else? -- money. "While I don't see a problem with the schedule change, particularly, in that one week you have seven, the next you have nine," said the spokesperson, "there's a clause in our contract with an `eight performance guarantee,' so there's extra money involved in this. We were asked to waive it. Our guarantee means that even if seven shows run during the week, the producers still have to pay for the eighth. Here, they were asking the unions to waive the extra money, and our Executive Board has declined to give them the waiver." No official reason has been given for the declination, nor could the spokesperson explain why the ninth show, added the following week, wouldn't be considered sufficient compensation for the missing show on the 31st. A source close to the union elaborated, however, saying that relationships between the union and the League have not been good, and that this was simply a way for the shoe of stubbornness to be on the other foot. "You come up against a brick wall again and again," said the source, who declined to give a name for publication, "so when they come asking you for a favor, even if it's reasonable, you don't want to give an inch, because they're always expecting inches from you."
The Local B183 spokesperson did say about the crowd issue, "We work every New Year's Eve and deal with the same problems. People do have trouble parking and getting their cars out, or they can't get down the blocks to gain entry. We've been asking about matinees for ages and ages, but nothing happens. We deal with it."
Musicians' union Local 802 is also unhappy with the waiver situation. A spokesperson told Playbill On-Line he doesn't understand why the producers can't reposition their eight shows to fit within the same week, as has been occasionally done on previews Christmas and New Year's holidays. "We've submitted three sample schedules which can be used to solve the problem."
-- By David Lefkowitz