According to the business trade, the League of American Theatres and Producers will convene in a town-hall-style meeting and discuss whether or not to pull advertising from the broadsheet. A spokesperson for the League could not confirm that a meeting was scheduled, and said that League president Jed Bernstein declined to comment on the article or on Times theatre reporting in general.
Dissatisfaction with the new arts reporting regime at the Times has been growing in the theatre community over the past couple months. Privately, producers, executives and press agents have groused that the paper's theatre coverage has been cut back again and again, and the stories that do get printed have taken on a deprecating tone.
The changes began in late summer, when the Times decided to discontinue its Friday "On Stage and Off" theatre column. A staple of the Friday paper for decades, the column was a favorite feature of producers and publicists, who used the space to announce new shows and casting. Then, on Oct. 2, the Times debuted a much ballyhooed art section redesign. Missing from the new look were the free Sunday arts listings, a section that Off and Off-Off Broadway shows—shy of the cash to pay for an "ABC" listing—dearly depended upon. The Times has meanwhile increased its reporting on regional and national arts stories.
In a less publicized editorial alteration, Off-Broadway producers and theatre companies have begun to notice that some of their shows are not receiving critiques in the paper, but that the reviews were instead being given a position on the Times' website.
Times theatre editor Patti Cohen told Playbill On-Line that the paper's intention is to review more shows, and to print the critiques in a prompter fashion. In recent seasons, certain Off-Broadway reviews did not run in the paper the day after opening night, but were held for days or sometimes weeks—a situation producers found frustrating. The new policy is to print such notices on the website, if space in the paper is not immediately available. By November, Cohen hopes to draw more attention to such reviews by announcing their arrival in the arts section's "Arts, Briefly" column. Cohen emphasized that no Off-Broadway shows are intentionally assigned to critics as "web reviews."
Advertising in the Times is expensive for theatre producers. The ABC listings are famously pricey, a small item costing thousands of dollars. A full page ad, meanwhile, can run $100,000, according to Crain's. The trade said the Times takes in $40 million a year in Broadway advertising.
Many industry observers think that Broadway producers, however incensed or organized, do not have the necessary clout to go up against the Times, or the nerve to do without Times advertising for very long. However, Crain's further reported that New York magazine and The New Yorker have reported recent increases in their theatre advertising, New York by 13 percent so far this year, The New Yorker by 50 percent this quarter.