Perhaps it's appropriate that the second act of Broadway's Steel Pier begins with an elaborate dance number on the wings of an airplane. Broadway is about to take wing with its first-ever, full-year, comprehensive corporate sponsor: Continental Airlines.
Announced at an April 15 press conference at the Virginia Theatre, this five year "marketing partnership" will make Continental "the Official Airline Of Broadway."
What does that mean in real terms? Continental will give funding and a marketing push to Broadway, including sponsoring the re-launch of the telephone information and ticketing service called "The Broadway Line," sponsoring the annual, outdoor "Stars In The Alley" concert at season's end, and sponsoring the opening of "Broadway On Broadway," which officially begins the season with a show in Times Square.
Although details on the extent of the League/Continental partnership -- as well as Continental's capitalization (in the 7-figure range) -- are still under wraps, said Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League Of American Theatres and Producers, "We're in the process of solidifying Broadway as a brand name. The first step was our logo, `Live Broadway.' Now with Continental, the sky is the limit, literally."
Said Continental president and CEO Greg Brenneman, "We offer more service to New York City than any other carrier. And what says 'New York' more than Broadway? So we're working on promotional deals, and on our airplanes the inflight magazines will promote Broadway. We're both in the business of putting fannies seats" Bernstein then broke in to say, "Rumors that the Jujamcyns will be serving meals at theatre seats are untrue." On a more serious note, Bernstein said, "We hope we'll end up with four-to-five corporate sponsors."
Asked if Continental would follow Ford's move of putting its own name on a theatre, Brenneman said, "We have no intention of doing that; there are many other ways to market and promote what we are." Brenneman also said that Continental will offer special discounted fares to producers, actors and technical people associated with Broadway -- "as well as those involved in the Broadway business."
Bernstein of the League termed Continental, the fifth largest airline in the U.S., "one of the 1990s' business success stories." For its part, the League represents 400 members of the theatre industry and has recently launched such initiatives as "Kid's Night On Broadway" and "Broadway Kids' Club."
Opening the April 15 press conference was a song and dance number that featured performers singing "Lullaby Of Broadway" and "Fly Me To New York" (to the tune of "Fly Me To The Moon") against the lit backdrop of Smokey Joe's Cafe. In their closing production number, the singers escorted Continental employees, from pilots to custodians, to the stage, and then marched back on carrying specially designed Playbills.