January 31, 2009 / 12:26 AM / 9 years ago

Broadway bids to woo audiences amid recession

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Broadway launched a campaign to woo audiences on Friday in the face of a miserable economic climate that has prompted consumers to slash spending, especially on entertainment.

With 19 new shows due to open in the next three months, industry group The Broadway League has joined forces with NYC & Co, the city’s marketing and tourism organization, for a Broadway print, street and television advertising campaign.

And to lure people to buy tickets, free tickets are on offer for children under 18 with every adult ticket sold for shows on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of every month. That deal was previously only offered once a year.

“We’re in more difficult economic times and the world is filled with choices and our job is to remind people that Broadway is an extraordinary choice,” said George Fertitta, NYC & Co chief executive.

Fertitta said he believed the recession would dampen international travel, but that this was a great opportunity for New York and Broadway to attract more Americans.

Broadway had 2008 calendar year gross earnings of $941 million, up from $938 million the previous year, although theaters were dark for 19 days in 2007 by a stagehand strike, figures from The Broadway League showed. It said 37 shows closed in 2008, five more than 2007, but the same as 2006.

About 12 shows have already closed in January on Broadway and several more are due to end in the coming weeks. Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, said ticket sales had dropped off as a result.

But she said this was normal and “occupancy or attendance at the shows that are open are doing very well,” adding that almost two-thirds of the shows that closed were limited runs and had been scheduled to end.

“We are reminding everybody, because everybody is price conscious, that there are tickets available at all price points,” St. Martin said. “People want to see a Broadway show especially during tough economic times.”

Producers have said it is getting harder to attract investors for new productions with several shows unable to secure financing to open this season.

Broadway contributes more than $5 billion a year to the New York City economy and about 45,000 people are directly and indirectly employed by the industry.

A November poll of 22 countries — including the United States — by Ipsos, an international market research and polling company, showed 72 percent of people were cutting household spending. The first thing to go for 76 percent of families was expenditure on entertainment.

Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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