What to Know
- Broadway will fully reopen its doors this September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday; tickets will be made available at 100% capacity and go on sale starting May 6 for shows starting Sept. 14
- At this point, masks, health screenings, enhanced air filtration and ventilation as well as rigorous cleaning and disinfection requirements will be mandatory, Cuomo said; that remains subject to change
- Large-scale outdoor venue capacity will increase May 19 with new fully vaccinated fan sections; and if you get vaccinated on-site at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium, you get a free ticket to an upcoming game
Broadway will fully reopen its doors this September, welcoming theater-goers from the city and all over the world once again for the first time in 18 months as New York charges forward in its unprecedented pandemic recovery, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Tickets will be made available at 100% theater capacity and will go on sale beginning May 6 for shows starting Sept. 14. Productions, theaters and attendees will be subject to the state's health guidance, Cuomo said, but that is subject to change as New York's COVID situation -- and that of the country -- improves.
At this point, masks, health screenings, enhanced air filtration and ventilation as well as rigorous cleaning and disinfection requirements will be mandatory. Cuomo said theaters plan to offer refunds and exchange policies should a performance need to be postponed because of any sudden adverse risk to public health. But he also said he can't require audience members to be vaccinated — however, the theaters themselves are allowed to do that.
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"II think it would be a safer environment. Is that feasible from a market point of view? I have no idea," the governor said.
By June 19, New York will begin to pilot reduced social distancing at large-scale indoor venues like Broadway theaters in assigned, seated sections designated for those who are fully vaccinated as well, Cuomo said.
He announced a similar approach for large outdoor venues -- like the Yankees' and Mets' stadiums as well as performing arts arenas -- will take effect this month.
“Broadway is at the core of our New York identity, and a big part of our economy which employs countless performers and show creators, and beginning this September, the show will go on,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
“Visitors from all around the world have come to New York to experience the arts and culture and see iconic performances on Broadway, and sadly, the pandemic put this unique New York experience on pause," the governor added. "Thankfully, as we continue to monitor the data and reopen our economy, we are now on track to allow full capacity performances on Broadway to resume in September, bringing back this beloved world-famous attraction.”
Wednesday's announcement follows Cuomo's news earlier this week that New York, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, would lift nearly all remaining business capacity restrictions beginning May 19. That includes for theaters, effectively allowing Broadway stages to reopen in exactly two weeks.
Cuomo mentioned Broadway with a caveat at the time, acknowledging it takes time to develop show schedules and sell tickets, and pledged to work closely with Broadway partners to plan for a safe, successful in-person return to the stage. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 250,000 people were seeing a Broadway show every week.
It's not clear how quickly the seats will be filled to full capacity again as an anxious public looks to restore some semblance of normalcy to its collective post-pandemic life. But the Broadway League has said it eagerly anticipates reopening as much as millions upon millions of global fans look forward to getting back to its iconic stage.
"We look forward to reopening at full capacity and are working to safely welcome audiences and employees back to Broadway this fall," the Broadway League said in a statement after Cuomo announced the larger reopening plan this week.
The first show on sale will be the musical Six, while other ling-running shows expected to follow suit a week later. Shows like Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show in Broadway history at 33 years, said they will not go on until October. And there are still many questions left to answer, both for those in the industry and possible attendees.
"I hear about vaccination passports, no one knows how that would work. No one seems to know is the audience masked?" asked Glen Kelly, a musical arranger and compose who has worked on shows like Book of Mormon and Aladdin. "It's going to cost millions to get any show up, even one that's been running a long time, and I'd be curious to know which producers will be willing to take that chance first. A show like Hamilton I think will be fine."
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
Cuomo also announced large-scale outdoor venues -- like the Mets' and Yankees' stadiums -- will get a capacity increase above and beyond the one he announced earlier this week. Starting May 19, large-scale outdoor venues will only be limited by space available for patrons to maintain the required 6 feet of social distance.
That equates to about 33% maximum capacity for most of those venues, which also include those dedicated to performing arts, live entertainment and horse and auto racing venues as well. Mask-wearing and other core COVID protocol still apply.
Fully vaccinated attendees at large-scale venues can be seated at full capacity in specially designated sections, Cuomo said Wednesday. Proof of full immunization status will be required and can be shown using the state's Excelsior Pass.
Young adults and children under the age of 16 who are not yet eligible for vaccination can be seated with a vaccinated adult in a fully vaccinated section so long as they present proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test result. The minimum age for showing proof of a negative test will rise from 2 to 4 on May 19 as well.
To make vaccinations easier, both the Yankees and Mets will offer onsite shots at their respective stadiums in partnership with the state Department of Health. If you get yours at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium you get a free ticket to an upcoming game, an added bonus to keep vaccinations on pace with the state's reopening progress.
“If we can encourage more people to get vaccinated by giving away Yankees tickets, we are all in,” the Yankees said in a statement.
“We’ve been polling our fans,” Levine said. “I think the majority are vaccinated rather than unvaccinated who are coming in. And hopefully those numbers continue to rise. But we will have separate sections and accommodate all our season ticket holders, make sure that they’re fine, and other people coming in.”
Alderson said the Mets envision a gradual return to full capacity.
“There are some people who are just not comfortable being in large groups, even at an outdoor facility. And so, from our standpoint, we still need some social distancing,” he said. “Generally speaking, we think a gradual return is appropriate in light of some concerns that people have about being in large groups even if they’ve been vaccinated. So we’re working toward full capacity, of course, but we’re happy with where we are and where we’re going.”
The three tri-state governors are still working to coordinate joint COVID protocol for large arena spaces going forward, Cuomo has said.
For his part, Gov. Phil Murphy added one smaller sporting item to the overarching plan for May 19. New Jersey will lift its ban on interstate indoor youth competitions that day, the governor said Wednesday.
This week's announcements mark the single most significant step in fully reopening New York, which Cuomo said could happen within the next two months if the pace of vaccinations stays on track, meaning, "literally, everything back to normal."
Smaller steps on that path continue this week. The one-time epicenter of the pandemic inched closer to bringing its vibrant nightlife scene back as bar seating returned to New York City Monday for the first time in well more than a year, while Cuomo said 24/7 subway service will be restored in the five boroughs on May 17.
Come Friday, indoor dining capacity in the city goes to 75% -- the highest limit Cuomo has allowed since first shuttering restaurants entirely as COVID seized the city last spring. In a matter of weeks, longstanding statewide curfews on restaurant and catering services will evaporate as well.