The Agony and Ecstasy of the Broadway Booking Jam

News   The Agony and Ecstasy of the Broadway Booking Jam For the first time since Playbill.com began tracking the booking status of Broadway theatres, every single Broadway house is either currently occupied or firmly booked for the summer or fall.

That situation may change after It Shoulda Been You closes at the Atkinson Theatre Aug. 9. But chances are strong that even that theatre will quickly be snapped up by one of the many shows currently circling Broadway, waiting for a place to land. Update: on July 7 the Atkinson was booked with Spring Awakening.

After all, that's what happened with the Broadhurst, where Mamma Mia! closes Sept. 12. It's already been booked with Misery, starting Oct. 22. And that's what happened with the Lyceum, where The Visit just closed. The Lyceum already has a an upcoming tenant in A View From the Bridge starting Oct. 21.

The Royale Theatre (now the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre) circa 1990.
The Royale Theatre (now the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre) circa 1990. Photo by Michael Riordan

Ditto the Cort, where Fish in the Dark continues through Aug. 1 — Sylvia is already waiting in the wings to start there Sept. 25. And the Winter Garden, where Wolf Hall is wrapping up a limited run, Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock is getting ready to move in Nov. 9.

At the Friedman, the marquee for the limited-run Airline Highway will soon be replaced by that of Fool for Love, coming in Sept. 15.

Click here to see a complete list of theatres and their bookings. It was not always thus. The Broadway booking jam has been a fact of life only since the late 1990s, when the Times Square theatre industry recovered along with the 42nd Street revival and the economic/social revitalization of the rest of New York City.

From the late 1960s into the 1980s, a sometimes dangerous neighborhood and difficult economics meant that Broadway theatres occasionally stood empty for months. Or even years. To keep the theatre district from looking down-at-heels, the theatre owners at first would simply leave up the marquee images long after the shows themselves had closed. That created confusion. In 1974, the Shubert Organization began replacing the marquee images with a poster that read, "See a Broadway show just for the fun of it!"

Shubert spokesman Bill Evans checked with Vice President of Theatre Operations Peter Entin, who said the last time that placeholder marquee was used was in 2000.

The situation is fantastic for the business side of Broadway, which just completed another $1 billion-plus season. Even so, surrounded by multi-million-dollar office skyscrapers and hotels, most Broadway houses are two- or three-story buildings that can generate money only during show times. The more they are booked, the better.

But it can also make life difficult for the new shows that want to come in, that have financing and casting already in place, but no curtain to raise.

The Longacre Theatre prior to the <i>Allegiance</i> marquee which is now on display
The Longacre Theatre prior to the Allegiance marquee which is now on display Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
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