As the coronavirus shuts down the entertainment industry, questions are swirling about whether hourly and project-based workers will be able to receive compensation during this time.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Thursday all gatherings of 500 or more people would be prohibited starting at 5 p.m. today in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Venues that host less than 500 people would be required to cut their capacity in half.
Broadway, however, was forced to close its doors at 5 p.m. yesterday, putting hundreds of performers and workers out of work unexpectedly. Trade organization Broadway League said all performances will be suspended through April 12.
“Our top priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement. “Broadway has the power to inspire, enrich and entertain, and together we are committed to making that vital spirit a reality. Once our stages are lit again, we will welcome fans back with open arms so that they can continue to experience the joy, heart, and goodwill that our shows so passionately express every night.”
Broadway earned $1.8 billion in revenue during the 2019-2019 season, according to Broadway League. A month-long shutdown could cost the industry more than $100 million, according to Deadline. It is also expected to impact tourism in New york, since the Great White Way is a big draw for theater-going visitors.
There are on-going talks to provide some compensation for workers while Broadway goes dark, a source with knowledge of the conversations told Cheddar. Actors’ Equity Association, a national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theater, called on Congress and local governments to “to put workers first,” saying payroll taxes cuts won’t help those who are suddenly out of work.
"Decisions made now will impact many arts organizations and the communities they serve for months to come,” said Actor’s Equity Association executive director Mary McColl. “Sustaining our entertainment sector and the workers who power it is essential. We must act, and quickly now, not only to protect public health, but with arts funding at all levels that ensures local arts employers have the resources they need to quickly recover and reopen. This will ensure the arts continue generating an economic halo effect in New York.”
It’s not just Broadway. Across the country, film and TV productions are being shut down in order to promote social distancing. NBC halted production on about 35 shows and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” postponed production for two weeks, while CBS is pausing filming on its “NCIS” shows, “The Good Fight” Deadline reported. Disney is halting all live-action film production. Around this time TV show pilots for the next season begin production, meaning it is likely that the 2020-2021 TV season will be truncated or premiere dates may be pushed back due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Actors union SAG-AFTRA has waived co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance for COVID-19 testing for its members. But whether these workers will receive paychecks while work is postponed remains to be seen.