On March 12, 2020, Broadway theater owners abruptly shut their doors and set ghost lights on their darkened stages. What was initially viewed as a "temporary pandemic precaution" turned into the biggest challenge the industry has ever faced, as all shows remained dark into 2021.
“When we shut down on March 12, we thought we'd be out for a couple of months," Broadway League president Charlotte St. Martin told reporters one year after theaters went dark. “And even that seemed to be unthinkable because Broadway had never been closed for that long before."
In an interview with City National CEO Kelly Coffey, St. Martin expressed her gratitude to members of the bank who were the first to reach out during the earliest days of Broadway's shutdown.
Now, the outlook is brightening for the Broadway League, the industry's trade association, as the 74th Annual Tony Awards® — once set to take place in 2020 — return on Sept. 26. With the beloved ceremony comes a new hope for every person that makes Broadway a magical place for theater lovers. September marks the first month that Broadway's most popular shows reopen, helping the industry make a crucial leap toward recovery.
City National is proud to participate in the return of Broadway as a sponsor of this year's Tony Awards, a role it has played for the last seven years.
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to produce a show on Broadway – a fact that makes having the right bank important. The team at City National handles the banking needs for productions so they can focus on what matters: the stage. The entertainment banking team at City National remains the leading provider of financial services to Broadway.
“We have great relationships with the people in the theater industry," City National Bank's Stephanie Dalton told Variety in 2019. “We really love this business, and we enjoy being part of the audience for these shows."
Dalton, her colleagues Erik Piecuch, Rita Marie Pelosi and their team at City National have served the Broadway community for many years. “We understand what they need and how to deliver. Our dedication to the industry means we go above and beyond to be trusted financial advisors," said Dalton.
Attendance records show that tickets were in high demand before 2020's abrupt closures. From 1991 to 2019, Broadway ticket sales exhibited steady annual increases. The 2018-2019 season saw 14.7 million patrons attending shows. The Broadway League revealed that this number is more than the combined attendance for all of the professional sports teams of New York and New Jersey. City National is proud to have provided banking services to approximately 50% of Broadway shows in 2019.
Despite being cut short, attendance during the 2019-2020 Broadway season started strong and was trending in the right direction before pandemic closures hit. After completing 41 weeks, the season was on track to break records. What looked to be another year of growth for the Great White Way ended up being one of the most difficult tests it has ever faced.
Broadway's hiatus from performances placed a sudden halt on a key part of New York City's artistic identity. While theater marquees and box offices still displayed posters for shows, they were not enough to distract from the distinctly different atmosphere that took over the city. Tourists were not snapping pictures of iconic theaters, audiences were not lining up outside in excitement, and performers and lovers of live performance tuned in to virtual shows to make up for their lost passion.
According to City National's Rita Marie Pelosi, the bank continued to be there for the Broadway community, even when the situation was at its bleakest. Pelosi and the rest of City National's entertainment banking team worked night and day to help Broadway clients navigate the financial challenges of a pandemic.
Part of that work was guiding clients through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to make sure they could make ends meet while the industry was shut down. Ultimately, City National helped theater clients secure about $13 million in PPP loans.
“As an example, clients were able to continue to pay medical insurance for employees and their families," Pelosi said. “We realized early on that the hours spent making ourselves available to the industry were very gratifying."
While difficult, Pelosi revealed that this experience further solidified the relationships between City National and its theater industry clients. The entertainment banking team was able to find ways to help clients, even when the curtains were closed on their stages.
“I'm proud that, in a small way, we contributed to keeping the lights on Broadway shining," Pelosi commented.
Today, as theaters prepare to return to their post-pandemic glory, work remains to be done to keep the spotlight focused on its rightful place. But City National will remain dedicated to helping the theater industry on stage, in the house and behind-the-scenes.
This article is for general information and education only. It is provided as a courtesy to the clients and friends of City National Bank (City National). City National does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors or persons quoted as of the date of the article with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This article may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National. Please cite source when quoting.