Broadway may soon get a boost from international travelers and the ability of children to get vaccinated.
On Monday, the U.S. lifted its international travel ban, allowing vaccinated tourists from 33 countries to enter the country. This move could help bring in an important sector of the Broadway audience as the industry nears the holiday season.
During the 2018-2019 season, the last full season in which data was collected, Broadway shows welcomed a record 2.8 million international attendees, making up 19% of the overall audience. With almost two years of pent-up demand, Tom Greenwald, co-founder of SpotCo, said he expects this segment to make a quick return to Broadway.
“I feel like it’ll be fairly noticeable immediately,” Greenwald said.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a declaration last week allowing children under the age of 12 to be vaccinated. As a result, Broadway shows will now allow children in that age group to show proof of one dose of the vaccine at least 14 days before the performance, rather than receiving a PCR or rapid test.
The return of international tourists and the vaccination of children comes as Broadway approaches its holiday season, the time in which the industry traditionally records its highest grosses. Altogether, these factors could help some borderline shows — which Greenwald refers to as the “have-somes,” as compared to the haves and have-nots — as they approach what many fear will be a tough winter season.
“It’s the ‘have-somes’ that now will be able to at least breathe a semi-sigh of relief and go ‘This will give us a fighting chance to make it through what was looking like a really dark stretch,'” Greenwald said.
The industry is not reporting grosses on a show-by-show basis, but as an aggregate. Recent numbers show Broadway playing to an 81.5% capacity across all shows, but with overall grosses per performance below 2019 levels.
While increasing, tourism numbers this year are also expected to be well below 2019 totals. NYC & Company has forecasted 34.6 million visitors to the city in 2021, with 2.8 million from other countries. In 2019, the city saw close to 67 million visitors, with 13.5 million from other countries.
Greenwald expects vaccinated children to have less of an impact on the industry as a whole — attendees under the age of 18 year made up 12% of the audience of the Broadway audience in the 2018-2019 season. But their ability to get vaccinated may be a particular help to some family-friendly shows.
Disney Theatrical Productions, which currently has “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” running on Broadway, said since reopening only about 15% of ticket purchases to the two shows have included children under the age of 12. This information comes from surveys collected from patrons.
While the two shows have thus far seen an expected decrease in international visitors, there has been an increase in attendees from the tri-state area. That segment now composes 49% of the audience, compared to 21% in fall 2019.
The ability for children to be vaccinated also comes as welcome news to parents, especially those who are avid theatergoers.
Dr. Dara Kass, an associate clinical professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, recently tweeted about her experience attending a Broadway show and the safety of doing so.
She had been waiting to bring her three children to Broadway until the youngest could be vaccinated. This is more for consistency, rather than as a health precaution, as Kass said that with an audience of vaccinated and masked adults, Broadway theaters are a safe environment for children, whether they are COVID-19 tested or vaccinated.
“Broadway is an amazing experience that they haven’t had for two years, and I’m excited to bring them back,” Kass said.