Written by McKenzi Thi Murphy
Earlier today, in a press release sent out to all theatre news outlets, Broadway producer Scott Rudin announced that beginning March 12 at noon, all remaining tickets to his shows would be available for the unheard-of price of just $50. The last time average ticket prices went for this low an amount was in 1998, over 20 years ago, according to data from The Broadway League.
“As long as New York City is open for business, its beating heart remains the Broadway stage,” Rudin said in the release. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for everyone to see a show that they otherwise might not have had easy and affordable access to. I can’t pretend that great theater is the panacea we’ve been waiting for, but in the meantime I think we could all use a few hours away from the evening news.”
The shows in question include The Book of Mormon, The Lehman Trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, West Side Story, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and the offer extends through March 29.
But while the thought of paying just $50 for a potential front orchestra seat is very tempting, and may seem like a bright light amid the chaos and confusion, this discount also seems a little tone-deaf considering many health officials are warning people away from packed gatherings. As of today, New York has seen 173 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 36 in New York City.
Of course, some people took to Twitter to express their discontent, including several in the industry.
“A pandemic shouldn’t inspire “affordable tickets,” tweeted Jeremy O. Harris, an up-and-coming playwright who premiered his first Broadway show, Slave Play, back in November. “What’s wrong w/ y’all?” He later followed up the Tweet by saying, “I’m not trying to [expletive] on any parades, but after YEARS of the most successful commercial theatre makers throwing up their hands and saying “there’s nothing we can do abt it,” it’s startling to see a clearance sale being presented as a gift in the face of [skull emoji] and economic collapse.”
In light of fears surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus), Broadway grosses have taken a slight downturn in the past few weeks, and ticket averages were just over $105 last week. Given how prices have been increasingly skyrocketing in the past several years (top musical prices can be over $500) this is quite the change. Given how a crowded theater filled with a thousand other people all packed in like sardines seems like the opposite of what is being recommended, this is not shocking.
The addition of six new shows beginning previews last week has kept grosses relatively up, all things considered. Marianne Elliot’s new production of Company, a Sondheim classic, was at over 100% capacity, as were several other popular shows such as Hamilton and Hadestown. However, some of Rudin’s shows, such as The Book of Mormon, have seen ever-so-slight dips since the global issue touched closer to home, though no lower than the numbers of late-January and February, normally slower months for Broadway.
While some shows have elected to temporarily suspend the practice of stage dooring to minimize contact with actors, and sustained gatherings, there has been no indication Broadway had any intention of closing its doors just yet, and with these discounts now in place for select shows, clearly quite the opposite is happening.