Blackout Bruises Broadway Box Office

The Saturday night blackout took a bite out of Broadway.

The five-hour power failure appears to have cost producers about $3.5 million in revenue — overall the 30 shows running last week grossed $30.6 million, down from $34.1 million the previous week, according to figures released on Monday by the Broadway League.

The outage, on Manhattan’s West Side, prompted the cancellation of 26 out of 30 Broadway performances scheduled for Saturday night — ordinarily a lucrative night for the industry, because it’s the most popular night to see a show, and mid-July is peak tourist season. (Four shows in theaters east of Broadway were able to go on.)

“A Saturday night in summer is a big deal,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League. But she also noted that, every few years, “something happens” to cause a cancellation of performances.

Ms. St. Martin said some producers are contemplating adding a ninth performance to their schedules this week, but that it was not clear whether any would actually take that step.

The power went out at 6:47 p.m. Saturday — just 73 minutes before curtain for most Broadway shows — so many actors and crew members were already at theaters, and patrons were on their way. Most shows did not decide to cancel until after 8 p.m., hoping the lights would come back on; the casts of several musicals, including “Come From Away,” “Hadestown” and “Waitress,” performed brief songs on the sidewalk.

Producers will generally be fine, of course — Broadway is a big and booming business, and many of the shows currently running are hits that can withstand a missed night. Some producers have insurance coverage, although many policies kick in only when two performances are canceled, which didn’t happen last weekend.

The blackout was especially tough for ticket-buyers. Most of them will be eligible for refunds or exchanges, but many had traveled from far away and will be unable to see shows they were excited about.

The blackout is a suspected factor in a Saturday night flood at Broadway’s Minskoff Theater, which is home to “The Lion King,” according to a spokesman for Disney Theatrical Group. The flood, which occurred after the show’s crew had left on Saturday night, affected the dressing rooms of the principal actors, and damaged their costumes, which were unusable at the two performances on Sunday. (The show’s puppets, and the costumes for the ensemble, were not affected.)

“The Lion King” was performed Sunday with the principal actors wearing all black (some of them had to run across the street to the Gap), instead of their costumes, but still employing the show’s distinctive masks. Actors explained the situation in a preshow announcement and most seemed to take it in stride; Disney said that of 3,200 patrons that day, only three parties asked for refunds. The costumes are expected to be repaired in time for Tuesday’s performance.

Large-scale cancellations of Broadway shows is rare but not unprecedented — in most cases, Broadway shows cancel only when the New York City subway system is shut down.

The last time this many shows were affected was in 2016, when matinee and evening performances on a January Saturday were canceled because of a 26.8-inch snowfall.

Hurricanes Sandy, in 2012, and Irene, in 2011, prompted Broadway to cancel all shows. And in 2003, a widespread regional power outage caused a another shutdown.

Michael Paulson is the theater reporter. He previously covered religion, and was part of the Boston Globe team whose coverage of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. @MichaelPaulson

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