My Revised Look At What Broadway’s Recovery Will Look Like

Things have changed since May of 2020.

Shoot, things have changed since yesterday!

But since May of 2020, when I first posted my “What The Broadway Recovery Will Look Like” series? Well, dang it, can any of you have imagined that we’d only have one Broadway show running a year later?

Not me. Not me.

Now that we’ve been through the great theatrical drought of 2020 (thanks, Covid!), I thought it was time to revise my prediction.

Because, in case I didn’t mention it. Things have ch-ch-ch-changed.

If you click here, you’ll see that last May, on this very blog, I predicted a “fishing hook recovery”, as opposed to a V-shaped or U-shaped recovery.

Here was my analysis in bullet point form:

  • Prior to the pandemic, things were going along gangbusters.
  • Then we slammed into the Covid wall and Broadway went from 60 to zero in zero seconds flat.
  • And we stayed there . . . and are still there . . . 
  • I then predicted a supersonic rise the moment that Broadway turned its lights back on.
  • After that, we’d have a continual upward trend, getting us back to where we were before in due time.
  • See here for the visual.

So what has changed?

It’s those last two bullet points that could use a rewrite.

Broadway is going to roar back to life when the big shows open back up. The pent-up demand, the support from locals, and the incredible amount of press that Broadway’s reopening is going to generate, is going to sell tickets. (If I had a show running, I’d be working hard to get as early an opening as possible, so I could be part of those press stories.)

And oh the word-of-mouth!

As I’ve been saying since the start of the shutdown, close your eyes for a moment and imagine what it’s like to be at the first performance of Hamilton . . . the first performance of Mrs. Doubtfire . . . Hadestown, or whatever your favorite Broadway show is. I mean, the ovation, the tears, and yeah, the word-of-mouth that’s going to sizzle through the city later that night. (Makes you want to buy a ticket right now, doesn’t it? Here’s a link! Do it!!!)

That said, I’m now predicting that we’ll have a fantastic fall and an even better holiday season.  (Of course, this comes with a big “Delta Variant” asterisk – with hopes and prayers that the unvaccinated begin to understand that they have the power to stop this thing.)

But, after the holidays? Well, that’s where the big change in my thinking is.

Am I doomsdaying?  No, no . . . NO.

Broadway will return to its pre-pandemic glory days. Thankfully, the economy is still roaring along, unlike in 2008. Our ticket buyers still have disposable income to spend on entertainment (and our tickets will also be cheaper – so maybe they’ll see more shows with the same money!)

The recovery is going to take longer, however. And more specifically, in January, I expect a big dip.  

In other ‘doodles,’ here’s how I think Broadway’s recovery is going to look now.

Why?

Well, it’s simple. January/February is always a difficult time. And while New Yorkers and locals will support our shows in the fall . . . the winter is something altogether different. Many aren’t even in the city!

Second, and this is the big one . . . NYC tourism, especially international tourism, which makes up a little of our usual winter-slack, will not have returned yet.

See, last May, we never thought we’d be down this long. And the longer we’re down, the longer it takes trends like tourism to restore to previous levels.

Here’s a prediction from NYC & Company from the NY Times:

New York attracted a record 66.6 million tourists last year and was expected to break that record again in 2020, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

The virus upended those expectations, and the city may reach only a third of last year’s total. NYC & Company has forecast 38.2 million visitors in 2021, rising to 69 million by 2024. Still, it predicts that the number of international visitors will take even longer to return to pre-pandemic levels.

With one-third fewer tourists going into 2022, we’re definitely going to have a smaller audience.

Broadway’s demographic is about 65% tourist. And 18% international.

And they’re not going to be here right away. And definitely not in January. Unfortunately, that means, we may have a little thinning of our herd come winter.

So, we’re coming back, people. But like everything in life, from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, to your own personal career trajectory, it’s not going to be a straight line up, like I had hoped (and should have known).

Broadway’s recovery is going to go up, take a step back, and then start to climb again . . . and just take a little more time than any of us would like. 

But, with hard work, great shows and even better marketing, we will get there. (I do think Summer of ‘22 will see a nice surge – and the good kind.)

And I can’t wait until the YEAR that we once again celebrate a new yearly Broadway box office record.

I’ll be around. You?

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