COVID-19 CASE STUDY: THE ECONOMIC IMPACT ON BROADWAY
Tanna, Inc report projects larger significant economic impact of Broadway in North America as industry shutdown surpasses one-year mark.
- $28.19 billion in direct, indirect and induced business sales from Broadway presentations will remain absent from the North American economies through Labor Day 2021.
- Broadway & Touring Broadway will yield revenue losses totaling ~$5.5 billion through Labor Day 2021, inclusive of secondary market sales.
- Approximately 175,000 direct or indirect jobs remain at risk without the national Broadway vertical
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so too does the devastation of the entertainment engine of New York City — Broadway. On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the 41 Broadway theatres in New York city halted performances. Also shutting down was all of Broadway’s national tour circuit, in what continues to be the longest shutdown in Broadway history.
The availability of Broadway in New York and other major urban centers across the country has always been recognized as both a powerful attraction and vigorous workforce. Health experts and industry professionals do not envision Broadway’s return until Fall 2021. Given the independent nature of the industry, some shows may return sooner, some later. Here we’ll provide a systematic investigation of direct and induced contributions of the Broadway industry to the US economy, what has been lost due to COVID-19, the future economic impact of the continued shutdown, and exam Broadway’s relief options.
When the pandemic shuttered our theaters, performing-arts professionals hoped for a short absence and a speedy return to live performances in only 4 weeks. As the virus spread, prospects for a spring return gave way to an abrupt termination of the 2019–2020 Broadway season and the postponement of the Tony Awards last June. Performances remained suspended through the summer 2020, into fall, and into 2021. Broadway’s second act will ultimately come down to four determining factors: recommendations from top infectious-disease experts on health and safety protocols, guidelines of state and local officials, the economic calculus required for Broadway’s financial model to effectively welcome back audiences, and the sociological partnerships needed to meet Broadway’s return. The Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry, predicts that New York theaters largely won’t start re-open until fall.
National tours that criss-cross the country have additional challenges. Juggling multiple state and local guidelines while also navigating through logistical hurdles including including travel & routing challenges create a complex puzzle. To that end, tours are also eyeing autumn re-openings. And then there’s the pandemic itself. Early stages of the vaccine roll-out are positive, additional financial relief is on its way, and past practices from the sports industry’s return to live have cleared pathways for theatre and producers to follow.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF BROADWAY IN NORTH AMERICA.
This study presents comprehensive and representative data quantifying direct and induced contributions of the Broadway industry to the U.S. & Canada economies. The industry report provides deeper analysis of Broadway and Touring Broadway’s economic impact at the one-year anniversary of the industry’s shutdown, forecasts projected total losses through Fall 2021, and examines the ticket to recovery.
THE BROADWAY BUSINESS: A VITAL SECTOR OF THE US ECONOMY
First, let’s explore Broadway’s vitality to the U.S. & Canada economies. This section covers NYC only. We’ll get to national tours further into this report.
- Over 14.8 million people attend a Broadway production annually in NYC. The most recent, completed season of 2018–2019 was the highest-grossing and best-attended season of all time, according to The Broadway League.
- To put this statistic in perspective, Broadway attendance topped the combined attendance of 10 of the 15 professional sports teams in New York City area.
- Tourists purchase two out of every three Broadway tickets, including 2.8M annual international buyers.
- Broadway typically sells $1.83B primary tickets.
- According to our data analysis by our company, another $350-$400M in secondary market sales were purchased by Broadway consumers, generating over $2B in overall ticket purchases for the 41 Broadway theatres in NYC.
- Broadway’s biggest economic contribution is over $16B added to the local NYC economy, inclusive of secondary market spends.
- Broadway tourism generates approximately $11 billon in taxable revenue for the city.
Broadway-Related Travel Spending
- Tourists spend an additional $8B in direct purchases at restaurants, hotels, shops, and public transportation related to their performance according the NYC & Co. We’ll dive more into tourism in a moment.
- As a workforce, the 13 unions representing the industry employ over 14,000 hardworking artists, craftspeople, musicians, and staff. Another 83,000 local jobs are tied to Broadway’s presence in NYC, totaling almost 96,900 direct or induced jobs.
Ticket sales for Broadway have, with rare exception, grown every year since 2000, with the most dramatic spikes the last 5 years in part due to cultivating tourism, innovative ticketing strategies, program diversity, and big titles.
It’s no surprise that the increasing popularity of shows like Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Dear Evan Hansen, and Disney have accelerated Broadway’s business this century.
This graph above shows the trend in ticket sales since 2000 which have increased more than five-fold since 1975. Since the start of this century, revenue has increased $1.163 billion (275%) and overall attendance has increased by approximately 2.9 million people (24%)
The industry has not always been this prosperous. As reported by The NY Dept of Labor, ‘ Broadway attendance plummeted approximately 50% from nearly 10 million in 1968 to five million in 1972, a record low. The New York Times cited high ticket costs, poor productions and the “fear of entering the midtown area” (Times Square) as the main reasons behind the drop. The redevelopment and rezoning of Times Square in the 1990s helped to transform the area into the tourist-friendly place we know today, with many of the changes due in large part to the actions of the Disney.’ National awareness via the Tony Awards, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and booming international tourism elevated Broadway and has woven the industry into the fabric of the city.
The increase in the number of tourists in New York City is a key contributor to Broadway’s prosperity. As reported by NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency, the Big Apple welcomed 66.6 million visitors prior to the pandemic, the tenth consecutive year of tourism growth — and a new record.
Tourists purchase two out of every three Broadway tickets, or 9.55 million attendees, including 2.8 million annual international buyers.
It is also true that Broadway’s recent strength has served to draw visitors to New York City, thereby bolstering local tourism levels. 8.5 million tickets were bought by visitors who considered Broadway the central reason for visiting the city.
Per NYC & Company and the Department of Labor, 80% of total NYC visitors were from the U.S., but the number of travelers from other countries also continues to grow. With a 26% market share, NYC remains the #1 city destination for overseas visitors to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel & Tourism Office.
Two essential moneymakers for Broadway, domestic & international tourists, are likely to stay sidelined for another year, possibly longer.
NYC & Company tallies fewer than 23 million visitors in 2020, about a third of 2019’s figures. Airlines for America does not expected passenger numbers to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2023, according to a report in the New York Times. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has said it does not expect business to fully recover until 2024. Per the report, international business trips declined just 13% during the 2008/2009 financial crisis, but took five years to return to their previous high point, according to McKinsey.
How Broadway finds the tourist inflection point in returning to NYC relies heavily on how vaccine rollout continues and how society accepts and follows safety protocols.
BROADWAY-RELATED TRAVEL SPENDING
The Broadway League determined that domestic Broadway tourists stayed in New York City for an average of 3 days when visiting to see a show in 2019. Foreign Broadway tourists stayed for around 6.7 days.
At the early heights of the pandemic, pedestrian counts in the district were down 90%. By fall 2020 that improved slightly to 75%. With colder weather and new COVID-19 variants present or detectable, those figures dipped again December 2020 — February 2021.
Pre-pandemic tourists spent $1.8 billion collectively on food and drink in the city, $2.2 billion on accommodations and $1.05 billion shopping at local retailers. Direct, taxable revenues to New York City are at least $11.8 billion according to our analysis. These figures, adjusted for the stimulation they provide to expenditures by the recipients of these amounts (ie. the multiplier effect) yield the figures reported here.
Purchases by tourists in NYC at restaurants, hotels, shops, and public transportation directly related to their Broadway ticket purchase:
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted another engine of Broadway’s global brand, touring Broadway. Traveling versions of Broadway titles are presented in 200 cities across North America, often created as sister-entities of Broadway’s mother ship.
Touring Broadway Audience
- Attendance at touring shows across North America during the 2018–19 season reached 18.5 million, or 25% more than the attendance at Broadway shows.
- Touring Broadway attendees are typically regular theatre-goers, averaging 5 shows/year.
- Traveling shows generated $1.6 billion in primary ticket sales during the 2018–2019 season.
- Per proprietary data analysis from our company, another $500M in secondary market sales were purchased by Broadway consumers, generating over $2.1B in overall ticket purchases.
- The stimulus calculus from national tours is that they typically generate an economic impact of 3.27 x the gross ticket sales to a local metro area’s economy, with estimates that national tours contribute over $3.8–$4.1 billion across North America inclusive of secondary market buyers.
- A total of ~78,000 direct or induced jobs can be obtained thanks to Broadway tours. This includes traveling personnel, local workforce, & venue operations.
TOURING BROADWAY REVENUE
Ticket revenue has mostly increased over the past 20 years, with some yearly fluctuation sprinkled in based on strength-of-season, venue availability, & engagement lengths.
Broadway’s strong century has translated to greater road business. Cultivated subscription bases throughout North America have helped spike attendance by over 8 million people since 2000. This generation of Broadway tour buyers has yielded a $1.107 billion revenue increase to the industry in the last 20 years.
The average paid admission at a touring show remains a respectable $88, double in price vs 20 years ago, but roughly 30% less than the average price for an NYC show ($124).
PROJECTED LOSSES THROUGH FALL 2021
Let’s review where we are with Broadway’s shutdown.
- All Broadway performances are currently suspended through May 2021. That’s a total of 63 announced cancellation weeks using the industry’s standard weekly-based timecard. National tours are also suspended through this date.
- While Broadway remains hopeful for a summer return, only the virus will control its ultimate fate. Even with vaccine rollout, PPE, and loosening of capacity restrictions, Broadway does not expect to return — in full — prior to Fall 2021. Touring shows are also eyeing September or October dates, presuming the country progressively improvements with the pandemic.
- To date, this is already Broadway’s longest shutdown in history. Given the Fall 2021 estimate, we could see suspensions totaling 77 weeks or longer. To give you a sense of theatre’s typical ‘show must go on’ tenacity, Broadway’s previous longest shutdown was only 24 days — due to a labor stoppage— in 1975.
So, what does the longest shutdown in Broadway history do to the economic calculus? Let’s take a look.
For the purposes of this report, we are utilizing a post-Labor return for the industry’s full return. Again, it bears repeating, it’s too early to officially announce Broadway’s return. At present, indoor performances can only resume at 33% capacity, a non-starter for [most of] Broadway’s sustainability model. It does remain entirely possible we could see a staggered roll-out of specific shows and presentations beginning mid-summer. Even with government clearance + minimized financial risk, it’s unlikely Broadway sees all venues churning prior to Labor Day. For that reason, we’re utilizing the aforementioned 77-week control group. Using some proprietary predictive modeling of both primary and secondary marketplaces weighted against other variables (e.g. seasonality, occupancy, pipeline) we’ve highlighted a few data points that will see serious impact.
The numbers are staggering:
- Broadway will lose ~25,000 total performances through Labor Day 2021 as a result of COVID-19.
- National tours cancelled or rescheduled totaling over 16,500 performances across the contiguous United States + Canada.
- Lost revenue. Broadway: ~$2.817B; National tours: ~$2.631B
- Economic impact. Broadway:~$22.44B; National tours: ~$5.75B
- ~$28.19 billion in direct, indirect and induced business sales from Broadway presentations will remain absent from the US & Canada economies through Labor Day 2021.
- Approximately 175,000 direct or indirect jobs remain at risk without the national Broadway sector.
PREVIOUS SHUTDOWN RECOVERY
The last time Times Square faced this kind of financial precariousness was in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Pedestrian counts lowered and visitor spending plummeted with the enforcement of flight restrictions and fears of another attack in a highly populated area.
In the days after the attack, New York lost more than $300 million in visitor spending and Broadway lost around $5 million in revenue. Despite September’s traditional low-season on Broadway, neighborhood hotels were reportedly down 40%; restaurants lost $6 million to $10 million per day.
The city came to the rescue after 9/11 — purchasing over 50,000 tickets for their own distribution — roughly $2.5M spread out across all the shows. They also provided the industry with over $1M towards a live event promotional campaign.
Despite re-opening 48 hours later, the national tragedy — especially related concerns about travel — had long term effects. It was 4 years until international tourism reached pre-9/11 levels.
The only other industry-wide shutdowns occurred due to labor disputes. While impactful at the moment of their business interruption, with sales plummeting $28-$40M, the industry rebounded with increased revenues the following seasons.
We don’t project a quick recovery after COVID-19. It could be 2024 or 2025 before Broadway reaches pre-pandemic levels. Even in post pandemic world, we expect goods-over-experiences trends to continue through 2021. Far flung purchases (read: premium/top price) won’t be COMPLETELY absent or decimated by the pandemic as audiences are already clamoring for a ‘return to live’. According to the AMS Audience Outlook Monitor Snapshot report from January 2021, 93% of surveyed arts center audiences plan to attend as much o more than they did prior to the pandemic. Broadway will need to generate progressive gains in ‘local tourism’ to start reclaiming pre-pandemic success.
ARTS & CULTURE SECTOR
The arts are a larger segment of the economy than most people realize. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the entire sector — nonprofit, commercial, education — is an $878 billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs.
That is 4.5% of the nation’s economy — a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as agriculture, transportation, and tourism.
The arts are kindling for the economy — small investments that deliver big returns. They get people out of their homes and spending money in the community. Every visit to an arts event generates $31.47 per person beyond the ticket cost in spending on meals, retail, parking, and lodging.
The arts even boast a $30 billion international trade surplus.
Our research estimates performing arts + fine arts will incur losses of $62.6 billion and whopping 3.1 million jobs.
NEW YORK CITY IMPACT
In 2019, New York City’s arts, entertainment and recreation sector employed 93,500 people in 6,250 establishments. These jobs had an average salary of $79,300 and generated $7.4 billion in total wages, according to a recent report from New York State Comptroller. As of December 2020, arts, entertainment and recreation employment declined by 66 percent from one year earlier, the largest decline among the City’s economic sectors.
The drop from 87,000 jobs in 2019 to 34,100 jobs in 2020 in the year prior highlights the biggest employment decline for the arts & recreation economy of New York — inclusive of theater, museums, sporting events, zoos, and botanical gardens.
Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union that represents about 51,000 stage actors and managers in the live performance industry, said that more than 1,100 actors and managers have lost work on Broadway during the pandemic. The same can be said for nearly every other theatrical employee, both in NYC or on the road. Administrative offices, marketing departments, box offices, musicians, crew, press shops, house managers, company managers, designers, directors, choreographers, construction shops, you name it. Nearly every department required to operate the Broadway ecosystem has suffered dramatic employment changes.
Broadway organizations and their personnel around the US & Canada continue to hurt, and remain mostly unable to reopen as the industry laps the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 shutdown. Organizations have needed to respond to these challenges by effectively shutting down or significantly lowering many of their business operations. According to survey’s conducted by our company to the Broadway industry:
- 45% of organizations have furloughed or laid off staff members.
- 40% have reduced payrolls and salaries of those they still employ.
- 45% of organizations have dipped into reserve funds, outside of PPP or government loans, to stay afloat. have reduced payrolls and salaries of those they still employ.
Reflective of the pandemic itself, artists who are Black, Indigenous, an people of color (BIPOC) have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic than white artists, including higher rates of unemployment (69% vs. 60%) and the expectation of losing a larger percentage of their 2020 income in 2021 remains a heartbreaking concern. (61% vs. 56%.)
RESOURCES & RELIEF
Clearly this is a distressing time for the country with more uncertainty ahead. When the crisis does end, the arts can provide the economic, social cohesion, and personal well-being benefits needed to recover from the pandemic.
Many relief packages are available — or soon to be available -- for arts workers, organizations, or anyone in the industry that have been physically or fiscally affected by the pandemic.
Since Thanksgiving, Congress passed the two additional stimulus packages with featuring vital relief for everyone in the arts.
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act. Passed at the end of former President Trump’s term, the $900 billion federal stimulus package (notably) includes: $166 billion in Economic Impact payments, $120 billion in unemployment benefits, $325 billion additional PPP funds, and the $15 billion SaveOurStages federal relief package for independent arts venues and arts entities (later re-named the Shuttered Venue Operations Grant, SVO)
- American Rescue Plan. Passed by Congress at the cusp of the one-year anniversary of the shutdown, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package (notably) includes: additional $1,400/person Economic Impact payments, extended unemployment benefits through Labor Day, $470 million earmarked for cultural organizations, child tax credits, $7 billion in additional PPP loans, $26.6 billion in restaurants/bar grants, and an additional $1.25 billion for SVO.
While independent companies within the Broadway ecosystem could apply early for small business PPP loans, many Broadway producers and venues are vying for additional relief via SVO. At least 70% of organizations surveyed said they planned to apply for SVO funding. When added to possible business interruption insurance payouts, this well needed relief could be particularly vital in funding re-openings or cover continued operating losses.
Individual relief is available through many of these arts-specific organizations. The Actor’s Fund, for example, has distributed over $19 million since the shutdown commenced, thanks in large part to highly creative virtual fundraising. We also encourage everyone to visit these BIPOC & LGBTQ resources to identify areas of need, and how you can help with any form of activism. More information is available at TannaInc.com
ROAD TO RECOVERY
When asked about barriers to re-opening Broadway — in the midst of a global pandemic and unprecedented financial uncertainty — Broadway leaders we’ve spoken to consider these the top four.
Government guidelines, vaccination availability + roll-out, health protocols, capacity restrictions, and current economics around this new geometry are of significant concern. That’s been very well reported.
Even with a vaccine, rapid testing, and contact tracing, it could still be 6 months before 500+ people are allowed to sit shoulder to shoulder for 3 hours in what the COVID era classifies as ‘high density spaces.’ Unlike our sports partners who can spread attendance over larger cubic feet, the current Broadway economic model does not grant operational forgiveness with reduced capacity. Volatility has long been a feature of Broadway before COVID-19, and not a recent bug.
We’re beginning to see Broadway and National Tours scope out their requirements following successful social distancing & health protocol solutions in China, Korea, and Japan. The Australian theatre market has re-opened up to 85% of their pre-pandemic audience capacity, trailblazing an adaptable blueprint and providing encouragement for Broadway.
New York’s ability to hold indoor theatrical events up to 33% capacity is a great boost for many similarly affected off-Broadway or non-profit arts organizations. Broadway will need to require more restraint until we can welcome audiences of at least 75%.
THE TICKET BACK
So what IS the road to recovery?
As the pandemic rages on and timelines skew, we know there isn’t one simple answer. No previous playbook for times like these, no GPS coordinates to easily follow. A recovery cartography is written in pencil, with constant edits.
Strategies and solutions will vary by geography and genre; audience and demand as every producer bridges the gap between closure and re-opening.
In our corner of Broadway’s ticketing and analytics space, research is already underway that provides us with descriptive and diagnostic data so that we have insights from which to craft new ticket models and solutions that will carry us forward in serving our audiences. We’re examining pricing trends from other verticals and translating those to applied strategies for Broadway producers as they bridge the gap between closure and re-opening. The recovery curve we’re designing for Broadway clients offers a re-imagined game plan against the enormous set of challenges in post-pandemic world. When the shutdown comes to an end, there is going a big chance to reboot, reopen, and re-engage with Broadway audiences — invigorating cashflow, and setting up ticket buying behavior for long term sustainable growth.
Ticketing 2.0. We know other verticals have successfully introduced proper tactical ingresses to preserve consumer confidence. Contactless entry, vaccination certification, testing results, and contact tracing within the ticketing transaction certainly matter. Strong customer relations with subscribers and adaptable exchange policies have helped retain Broadway loyalists while pro-actively building the till. Starting from scratch is never easy in building show advances, so the reliance of a robust distribution + technology strategy will help producers expand and accelerate the reach of their promotion. Our firm stresses the importance of incorporating untapped and underutilized resources into their Broadway ticketing plans inclusive of integrations with pricing and distribution-centric companies. We hope these approaches drive the industry forward and perhaps out of pre-existing and potentially worn conditions. Without question, the industry will be using a lot of calories on ticketing strategy. Going through a pandemic is not the time to raise prices. Like the last recession, consumers will continue value-seeking behavior even as economic conditions improve so we must be prepared for greater price sensitivity amongst the casual buyers. Pricing architecture will be re-built on a couple key (yet familiar) pillars as the evolution of ticket pricing continues: the top buyer & the value-seeker. Price discovery and optimization will have a major impact on shaping ticketing’s recovery curve, especially as shows teeter-totter an over abundance of inventory against demand at the re-start. A common pre-pandemic challenge — say, selling out on a cold and rainy Tuesday night — becomes even more taxing. Tailoring sales to patrons will be vital.
A common challenge for the start-up minded Broadway ecosystem is pricing within the business model. Unlike major retail supply chains, Broadway shows don’t always price tickets against their margins. They price against their capitalization, which typically forces higher full price offerings. Discount prices don’t make their margins, unlike say a big box store which can absorb a larger abundance of supply, especially by offering multiple SKUs. The internet has destroyed the competitive advantage of many specialized, primary Broadway retailers as centralized sales platforms (StubHub, TodayTix, Broadway.com) have created efficiencies of scale that could out-price the traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’, startup controlled pipeline. At the end of the day each and every Broadway show ultimately operates as it’s own brick-and-mortar retailer. The rise of streaming and virtual offerings expands the possibilities and offers another high touch opportunity for Broadway fans, even if long-tail economic models must still be created. By way of example, big box craft stores (think: Michaels) generated sharp revenue increases during the pandemic as more folks spent time at home, registering more screen time and giving more rise to social sites, such as Pinterest, Instagram, and even Etsy — making it easier for people to both learn how to craft and share (or even sell) the finished result. Broadway’s post-pandemic goal will be to boomerang second screen behavior (streaming, etc.) into non-fungible opportunities that expand its current limitations.
Our firm remains invigorated and committed in working with producers and rights holders to apply these advance models and solutions to their productions. As capacity restrictions ease, Broadway would do well to stretch elasticity in welcoming back fans and remain 100% committed to sustained flexibility.
Audience Engagement will take a new role. Effective modeling and deeper forensics on digital media campaigns will be key on who and when to target. Contactless entry and patron identity features prominently in the post-pandemic world which is beneficial here as well. Personalization of pricing applications are galvanizing sales departments to increase conversions, especially those that cater to need and transparency for the patron. During the pandemic, 63% of arts organizations have increased their online presence to maintain audience or donor engagement. Ascribing new value to assets Broadway shows already maintain will be pivotal in finding equal success. Like many mediums, theatre has quickly adapted virtual and digital footprints so look for that trend to continue and blend with Broadway’s live recovery.
The New Subsidy. Broadway has long been a singular revenue pipeline. A zero-sum game for producers for an industry in which only 30% of shows recoup their capitalization. Reliance on ancillary revenue or alternative business structures outside of subsequent (and individually financed) companies remains extremely limited. Federal aid is now available to help stand-up the industry in 2021 but more can be done to carry this brand forward. On the state and local level, co-opted and synergized partnerships with local tourism organizations can form foundations for re-building audiences. Part of that is already underway with the recently announced “NYForever Campaign” and NYC & Co’s “All In” program for restaurants and small businesses. Corporate underwriting to subsidize ticket purchases would curtail some risk and pump more operating revenue into the ecosystem. Evolution and investment of health and safety protocols will also be required to ensure consumer and staff safety at the theatre.
The exciting convergence of these steps is, really, no idea can’t be explored. No idea is too big, no idea is too small. No matter how small or long your planning cycle is, we’re evaluating it all. EVERYTHING IS ON THE TABLE.
Americans are divided over many things, but we can all agree that 2020 was tragic, terrifying, and generally no good. Yet amid the sadness and strife, and despite uncertainty that still exists in 2021, we are on a path to improvement. After so many dark days, light is flickering at the end of the pandemic tunnel. We don’t yet know when we’ll be out of these challenging times. We DO know there will be a recovery. Preparing now on things like our strategic action plans that support our audience needs are the things we’re getting ready for on Broadway.
Audiences will return again. Revenues will return again. This is Broadway. We WILL sell tickets. Might hurt for a little while. But the industry won’t capsize, it won’t vanish. We’ll get full houses again.
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