4th January 2009 Broadway Bloody Sunday
A substantial number of Broadway shows closed in January 2009 - is this the sign of a crisis on Broadway or can the bloodbath be avoided?
When all hell broke loose on Wall Street in slow-motion crash in the autumn of 2008, nobody was surprised to see struggling shows like A Tale of Two Cities and Xanadu close. But in January 2009, over one third of the shows playing on Broadway closed; not only is this unprecedented in the history of Broadway, but it's downright shocking.
Many Big Broadway Show Hits Closed
A show like 13 closing is not unexpected because it's a new kid on the Broadway block and has been having trouble finding an audience. But big hits like Grease and Young Frankenstein, as well as Tony winners Boeing Boeing and Spring Awakening, will also be among the dead by the end of January. Long-running favorites Hairspray and Spamalot are shutting down as well. On January 4th alone, at least eight shows will conclude their runs. Gypsy won't go down until March 1st, but there will probably be even more closings announced before then. The 39 Steps, Avenue Q, and August: Osage County have all been rumored to be joining the others on the chopping block. The beginning of 2009 is shaped up to be a Broadway Show bloodbath.
Limited Run Shows Are Among Those Set To Shutter
Not all of the upcoming Broadway show closings are a surprise. Several of the plays and musicals that will be closing soon were limited runs to begin with. All My Sons, Dividing the Estate, and Equus were always scheduled to close near the beginning of the year, while Irving Berlin's White Christmas and Slava's Snowshow were strictly holiday engagements. Furthermore, January is notorious for being a difficult month on Broadway, especially for shows that are already financially struggling. But even taking this into consideration, the number of closing shows is unusually and disturbingly high and has many people wondering if Broadway is about to go through some kind of depression.
How Will Broadway Survive This Slump?
Broadway has been through hard times before and bounced back. It survived the Great Depression. More recently, it dealt with the difficult post-9/11 period, in which the theaters were dark for several days and continued to experience financial setbacks along with the rest of New York City's tourism industry. Many of Broadway's theaters have gone through long stretches of inactivity, especially in the '30s, '40s and '50s; several served as TV studios during tough times, and many were even converted into movie houses. This could happen again. Producers will be more wary of risking their money on expensive productions, leaving theatergoers with fewer choices and many Broadway theater professionals without employment. Fortunately, if history is any indication, Broadway will weather the storm and eventually come out better than ever.