Valerie Harper and Brian Stokes Mitchell were on hand at a morning press conference, Nov. 14, which addressed the current state of Broadway and how to make sure the rest of the New York season continues to overcome the after-effects of Sept. 11. The League of American Theatres and Producers, which comprises theater owners (such as the Nederlanders, Shuberts and Jujamcyn) and producers (e.g., National Artists), used the conference to show that it has been tackling the situation on several fronts, from assessing demographics to aggressive marketing.
In a study conducted since mid-September, the League has found that, compared to a similar time period last year, tourist attendance is down 55 percent, while local New York theatre patronage is up 50 percent. Manhattan tourism from the rest of the country is down 13 percent, though the bridge and tunnel crowd has increased by 16 percent.
When it came to ticket sales in October, impulse buying generally won out over long-term planning. Only 15 percent of audience members bought their ducats a month in advance (as opposed to 45 percent in October 2000). Roughly 50 percent of audiences had bought their tickets within a week of attendance.
One positive note is that significant numbers of people who did attend the theatre in October said that the World Trade Center attacks played a part in their decision to come out and support Broadway (to the tune of 40 percent of suburban attendees and 32 percent of New York City residents).
Since the target audience for Broadway has now shifted back home, at least temporarily, the League is making an extra effort to reach metro area and driving-distance tourists. Phase II of the League's "I [Love] NY Theatre" advertising campaign will now go into effect, sparked by a million-dollar grant from Empire State Development. Print ads will be geared towards the five boroughs and northeast corridor states, and a new website, www.ilovenytheater.com, will allow patrons to put together theatre packages of restaurants, hotels, parking and tickets. Also, Loews Cineplex theatres will now screen the 30-second public service announcement that features fully-costumed Broadway stars singing "New York, New York" as part of its pre-movie trailers. The League also took the opportunity to announce its launch of an internet database of archival Broadway information, www.ibdb.com (Internet Broadway DataBase.) League president Jed Bernstein said in a statement, "We have forged new and strong partnerships and alliances and look forward to continuing these relationships as we move ahead to New York City's economic recovery."
The League's best-foot-forward planning comes a day after it was reported that a major player, Dodger Theatricals, the producing powerhouse behind The Music Man, 42nd Street, Urinetown and the upcoming Into the Woods and Dracula, has withdrawn its membership.
"The Dodgers believe that the league doesn't represent their own business interests at this time," spokesman Adrian Bryan-Brown said in a statement.
Like Disney, Dodger Theatricals will now negotiate union contracts and other deals independently from the league, but this will not mean Dodger product cannot be eligible for Tony Award consideration. It is thought the withdrawal stems from the Dodgers not being included in labor concession talks following the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York. A handful of producers sought pay cuts to weather the period of tourist-theatregoer trepidation after the terrorist bombings in New York, but Dodger shows were apparently not included in those talks.
"There is dismay in the house and among the producers" that unions will not consider Music Man as falling under the same criteria of...other Broadway shows that got concessions last week, Bryan-Brown told Playbill On-Line at the time Sept. 26. Those shows — Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, The Full Monty, Chicago and Kiss Me, Kate — were considered brand name shows that rely heavily on tourist trade. Their casts and crews agreed to a 25 percent across-the-board pay cut for a limited period until business picked up again. "The Dodgers believed the league was approaching labor as a group effort," Bryan-Brown told the trade paper, Variety, at the time. IATSE was reportedly not considering any more petitions for concessions for four weeks, but Music Man, internationally known and running longer than The Full Monty, eventually got the break from unions.
There was speculation in the theatre community that Dodger Theatricals was initially kept out of the concession plan because it was sending out a non-Equity national tour of The Music Man. Actors' Equity's Alan Eisenberg said in Variety that it would never put its members out of work to punish a producer.
Dodgers Theatricals' Tony Award-winning 42nd Street weathered the storm without concessions. Those close to the show said a non-Equity 42nd Street tour is in the works.
According to Variety Nov. 12, "Insiders speculate the Dodgers' membership translated into approximately $200,000 in assessments and fees to the league this year, and its departure from the trade org represents a significant blow to its power and influence in the industry."
Dodger Theatricals is a theatrical producing partnership comprising Michael David, Robin de Levita, Doug Johnson, Des McAnuff. Rocco Landesman, Edward Strong and Sherman Warner.