What recession? Broadway ignores economic downturn

Thu May 14, 2009 4:28pm EDT
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By Louis Charbonneau

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street may be in a slump as the global economic slump grinds on, but 4 miles north in midtown Manhattan, Broadway theaters continue to lure crowds as they have for decades during times of recession.

Some people might find it hard to believe Broadway has proven so resilient in the face of rising unemployment and record losses at some of the biggest U.S. corporations.

Half a year ago, predictions for Broadway were dire. The gloomier newspaper headlines included "Broadway braces for recession fallout" and "Recession to finally kill Broadway."

So far there are no signs that Broadway -- which survived the post-September11 economic slump and a lengthy strike by stagehands in 2007 -- is dead.

Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League industry group, said she has analyzed 30 years of attendance data for Broadway houses during recessionary periods and concluded that New York's theater row has been virtually impervious to economic declines.

"What that tells me is that when there's great product, people go to the theater," she said. "When there's not great product, they don't go to the theater."

St. Martin said many Americans may be scrapping plans for vacations in Europe or elsewhere and traveling instead to New York City to see Broadway shows where they can enjoy a several-hour "escape from reality."

Time Out New York theater critic Adam Feldman said a wave of rave reviews and the limited size of New York's theater industry were both helping to keep it buoyant.   Continued...

<p>A Broadway street sign hangs in New York's Time's Square, November 29, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>