When COVID-19 shut down the whole of the world, many fans of musical theatre found themselves living with uncertainty: the uncertainty that Broadway may never return, or even live theater in general. Thankfully, though the intermission was long, Broadway did return. Musicals whose openings were long overdue finally got to see the light of day, and beloved favorites got to start right where things left off. Unfortunately, one thing that also returned with Broadway is how financially inaccessible it is. However, this is a problem with live theatre that has always been present. The pandemic has only magnified this issue.
To give an idea of how Broadway prices have changed over the years, according to a statistic done by Statista.com, the average price of a ticket to a Broadway musical was $78.94, but as of the 2018-19 season the average price was $122.73. Even after the pandemic, Broadway prices still sit at an average $113.29 as of May 2022. It’s important to set these prices against the backdrop of the pandemic, a time that financially hurt everyone.
Broadway producers have to recuperate the massive budgets they put into these productions, but it becomes a double-edged sword when it becomes harder and harder to make it inside a theater.
What makes it worse is that it’s clear Broadway producers have very little understanding regarding the constant increase in ticket prices. The Tony Awards - easily Broadway’s biggest night - served as a prime example for this lack of common sense. For this year’s 75th Annual Tony Awards, the ceremony was offering student rush tickets to attend. On paper, what a great idea. The catch? The tickets were $250 and only accessible to NYC students. On top of that, the tickets would have to be picked up in-person with a valid student ID days before the event was to take place during hours when most students would likely have class. Not only were producers expecting college students to drop $250 on top of a $6 facility fee (Playbill.com), but were also anticipating that many students would skip class to get them.
I must reiterate, Broadway productions aren’t cheap to produce. On top of the actors, orchestrations, lighting, sets, and costumes, there’s even just general maintenance of the theaters that causes those budgets to skyrocket. “The Lion King” opened on Broadway with a budget of $27.5 million (SuccessStory.com). However, the Broadway community struggles to survive because the door to accessing it closes more and more every year. As inflation hurts more and more people every day, it seems less and less likely that people are going to spend the money on gas, parking, and then ultimately putting in $200 or more for two and a half hours of entertainment.
It’s important to note that this comes from a massive fan of musical theatre, one who would give anything to see shows like “The Book of Mormon” and “Hamilton” live on a stage, but this is also coming from someone who wakes up in a cold sweat at least once a week thinking about student loans and the million other debts that pile up on a yearly basis. I want to make the time for Broadway, but Broadway clearly doesn’t want to expand its fanbase, rather its wallet.