ASK PLAYBILL.COM: A Question About Securing Extra Elbow Room in Broadway Theatres
By Robert Simonson
Ask Playbill.com answers your (and sometimes our own) theatre-related questions. To ask a question, email AskPlaybill@Playbill.com. Please specify how you would like your name displayed and please include the city in which you live.
Question: I'm an actor in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. A friend wrote asking if there were theatre seats to accommodate very large people. And, I'm afraid I don't know the answer. The only thing I could think of is to try and reserve a box seat, that might have regular chairs, not theatre seats, and request a larger chair. But, this too may be impossible. Can you help me answer this question? —Kevin Loomis, New York.
When it comes to seats in Broadway theatre, one size does not always fit all. What may be commodious to some may seem a tight fit for others, whether we're talking about a theatregoer's width or height. David Vaughn, the director of facilities at the Nederlander Organization, which owns several Broadway theatres, used to manage the Minskoff, where he often encountered patrons who needed a little extra space. "Usually the customers don't ask beforehand," about seating, said Vaughn. "Typically, they come to the theatre and find they're uncomfortable. Then we have to reseat them."
Such occurrences still happen frequently today. When they do, Nederlander houses have a two-tiered approach to solving the problem and satisfying the customer.
"If wheelchair seating is available, we will reseat the person in one of those seats, which have more space than regular seats," said Vaughn. Every Broadway theatre has a minimum of four wheelchair spaces. "If they are not available, then we would direct them to the boxes." Most box seats have armless chairs which are not attached to the floor or encumbered by connected seats on either side. Only the Minskoff, Gershwin and Lunt-Fontanne, among the Nederlander theatres, do not have box seating.
A spokesperson for the Shubert Organization, the largest owner of Broadway theatres, said their policy was similar — the theatregoers would be directed to a box seat.
A spokesperson for Jujamcyn Theaters told Playbill.com, "Jujamcyn staff members take each instance on a case by case basis to ensure each patron's maximum comfort and enjoyment. Among the possible accommodations are relocating the patrons to seats with movable arm rests, free standing chairs, or box chairs. In some cases a full refund will be given."
As for the Foxwoods Theatre, which houses Spider-Man, house management, forwarding a reply through the show's publicist, said, "We occasionally have folks that find our standard seats uncomfortable or too small. Kevin's solution is right on in terms of what we offer these patrons. We'll generally offer them one of our box seat locations that contain regular chairs instead of standard theatre seats with fixed arms."
It should be noted that such moves do not have an impact on the ticketbuyer's wallet: box seats cost the same as orchestra seats.
Watch the Playbill Video about the new ergonomic seating that Jujamcyn Theaters recently installed in its August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.
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