More scarce than opening-night tickets: insurance to back Broadway shows

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 04 Jul 2020

A man walks past the shuttered Richard Rodgers Theatre, home of the popular musical 'Hamilton' after industry group the Broadway League said Broadway theatres will remain closed through Jan 3, 2021, in New York. Photo: Reuters

As they reel from cancelled productions and shuttered theatres, the shows that give Broadway its bright lights and draw millions of tourists to New York are facing a new obstacle to reopening: lack of pandemic insurance.

Broadway producers, directors, general managers and insurance brokers said that shows face an extra hurdle because policies now exclude coverage for communicable diseases.

"Right now most insurers, if not all, have come out with a virus or communicable disease exclusion that they're putting on their policies," said Peter Shoemaker, managing director of the New York entertainment division at insurance broker DeWitt Stern.

Shoemaker said he recently spoke with insurers at Lloyd's of London to see if special coverage was available. "I still haven't seen anything for covering a pandemic," he said.

Insurers' caution also is halting films and television shows, which need insurance to get the financial bond necessary to start production.

But Broadway is particularly vulnerable because of the large numbers of people needed to mount a big production and to fill the theatre night after night.

"We are truly at the mercy of science," said Tony Award-winning director John Rando in an interview, referring to a vaccine. "We need science to come through. We need people to feel safe."

Operating at 30% capacity to allow social distancing, or testing and tracing audiences as a Korean production of Phantom Of The Opera is doing, are not feasible in New York.

"Broadway simply cannot operate on those economics," said Rando.

Broadway productions scheduled to open this fall have already been postponed to Jan 3, 2021, at the earliest under New York's phased reopening rules.

The lack of insurance will impede shows and theatres seeking to reopen in 2021, even if other pandemic problems such as audience safety are solved, the brokers and producers said. - Reuters

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Pandemic , Insurance , Theatre , Broadway , New York


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