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Broadway shuts down due to coronavirus pandemic | Stage

New York’s Broadway theatres have become the latest mass entertainment venues to temporarily shut down for coronavirus.

Andrew Cuomo, the state governor, unveiled a plan to suspend shows as part of new regulations to prevent public gatherings over 500 people. Carnegie Hall, one of New York’s premier concert venues, will also suspend performances through 31 March, and the Metropolitan Museum of New York will close indefinitely from 13 March.

The decision is a reversal of sorts for Broadway, which seemed to anticipate a financial hit from the virus but have kept tickets on sale. Trade group The Broadway League, who held an emergency closed-door meeting today, previously reassured customers in a statement that “We have significantly increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in all public and backstage areas beyond the standard daily schedule, and we have added alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers for public use in the lobby of every theatre. The League also discouraged anyone experiencing cold or flu symptoms from attending performances.

Just two days ago, the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, said he hoped to keep Broadway’s lights on: “I don’t want to see Broadway go dark if we can avoid it. I want to see if we can strike some kind of balance,” he told CNN.

And earlier this week, Scott Rudin, the prolific producer currently backing a record-breaking revival of West Side Story, slashed ticket prices for five shows to $50 (Broadway tickets usually sell for around $200). “These are shows that are playing to fantastically healthy business,” Rudin told The Hollywood Reporter of his decision. “My partners and I want the buildings full – even, and especially, during this crisis – and this is the way to ensure it … I want no deadwood in these buildings – and my colleagues and I want to give people the chance to see these shows when they otherwise might not be able to afford tickets or to even get tickets.”

Given the rash of cancellations in recent days and warnings from public health officials to avoid crowded areas to minimize the spread of coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, the suspension seemed only a matter of time as coronavirus cases in the US passed 1,200 people, including a part-time usher for two high-profile Broadway productions.

On Wednesday, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, the site of the worst outbreak, banned gatherings of over 250 people in three counties, including Seattle, and the NCAA announced its March Madness college basketball tournament would play without fans. The NBA abruptly suspended its season Wednesday night after the Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus.

Coronavirus has now disrupted a booming box office season for Broadway, as Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill A Mockingbird adaptation starring Ed Harris and Ivo Van Hove’s modernized West Side Story have broken records. It’s estimated that the shutdown will cost more than $100m in ticket sales.

It also throws askew plans for upcoming premieres of Tony-aiming shows, such as Conor McPherson’s Bob Dylan musical Girl from the North Country, Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen and a musical based on the life and death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Broadway also joins Hollywood in reckoning with the threat of coronavirus. The latest updates in two storied franchises – James Bond in No Time to Die and the Fast and the Furious F9 – have pushed back their premieres to the fall or later. Late-night programs from Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in New York to Jimmy Kimmel Live! In Los Angeles have cancelled live audiences for the foreseeable future.

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