A person walks by Broadway posters near Times Square as theaters remain closed following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on January 15, 2021 in New York City.
Cindy Ord | Getty Images
New York plans to use extensive coronavirus testing as a way to reopen its struggling entertainment venues that have remained shuttered for months during the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.
The coronavirus has crippled the live theater industry, especially in its central hub in New York City and on Broadway, which has been closed since March 2020.
People who held tickets through May 30 were advised in October to contact the seller for refunds or exchanges, making it unlikely theaters would reopen before that date, according to previous projections from the Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners.
However, Cuomo said there is hope that New York could allow Broadway, alongside other entertainment venues, to reopen with some limitations, though he wasn’t immediately able to provide a timeline for their return.
The state would likely impose a cap on audience sizes, require every person to provide a negative Covid-19 test before entering and require proper air ventilations systems in theaters, the governor said.
“Would I go see a play and sit in a playhouse with 150 people? If the 150 people were tested, and they were all negative, yes I would do that,” Cuomo said during a press briefing. “I think reopening with testing is going to be the key.”
Much of the state’s plan hinges on a pilot program it conducted in January, where nearly 7,000 football fans were allowed to attend the Buffalo Bill’s home playoff game as long as they presented a negative Covid-19 test.
The governor previously announced at the end of January that New York would allow some venues to reopen for wedding ceremonies with limited capacity beginning on March 15. People will be able to hold a wedding if everyone attending is tested before the event and the organizers receive approval from their local health department beforehand, he said.
“Opening sites with testing is something where New York wants to lead the way,” Cuomo said on Monday.
New York’s first steps to reopen its beleaguered entertainment industry will begin on Feb. 20 with the start of a new “NY PopsUp” initiative. The program will organize more than 300 pop-up performances over 100 days that will be free to watch, though their locations won’t be disclosed beforehand to prevent crowding, Cuomo said.
The initiative will include some big names, such as Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Billy Porter, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patti Smith and Mandy Patinkin, among others, Cuomo said.
The events will lead up over the summer to the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival in June, Cuomo said. The governor said the program will start with the spontaneous performances and hopefully “migrate” to the opening of some indoor entertainment venues.
“New York leads and we’re going to lead in bringing back the arts because we’re at a point in time where the future, my friends, is what we make it,” Cuomo said.