New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced the shuttering of Broadway — a decision without modern precedent with the exception of the days after 9/11 and during labor strikes — at an afternoon news conference in Albany. The mandate prohibits gatherings of more than 500 people throughout New York state, effective March 13 Friday at 5 p.m. Spaces with a capacity of 500 or fewer will be limited to half their normal audience size.
A Broadway theater by industry definition must have 499 or more seats, so the edict applies to all Broadway houses in an area on the West Side of Manhattan bounded by the Vivian Beaumont Theater on West 65th Street to the north and the Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street to the south. Though Cuomo’s orders require closure by Friday, the theaters closed as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
“Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theater industry every day,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, a trade group for producers and theater owners.
The league advised ticket holders to contact “their point of purchase” for refunds or exchanges and noted that performances are scheduled to resume “the week of April 13, 2020.”
The order leaves open many questions about the future of the Broadway season. March and April are the busiest months of the year for the openings of new shows, and the end of April marks the deadline for qualifying for the Tony Awards, scheduled this year for June 7. About a dozen shows were still to open, and how many of those with postponed runs will be able to compete for Tony consideration remains unclear.
Cuomo’s decision could provide a financial break for producers. According to people with knowledge of the business, the “force majeure” clauses in insurance contracts — protecting producers in the event of cancellations due to unforeseeable events — could be triggered.
A number of off-Broadway theaters — with spaces consisting of fewer than 500 seats — announced Thursday that they were also shutting down or putting off productions.