Broadway theatre in New York City

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Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

The Broadway theatre district is a popular tourist attraction in New York. According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold approximately $1.037 billion worth of tickets in calendar year 2010, compared to $1.004 billion for 2009.

18th and 19th centuries

Early theatre in New York

New York did not have a significant theatre presence until about 1750, when actor-managers Walter Murray and Thomas Kean established a resident theatre company at the Theatre on Nassau Street, which held about 280 people. They presented Shakespeare plays and ballad operas such as The Beggar's Opera. In 1752, William Hallam sent a company of twelve actors from Britain to the colonies with his brother Lewis as their manager. They established a theatre in Williamsburg, Virginia and opened with The Merchant of Venice and The Anatomist. The company moved to New York in the summer of 1753, performing ballad operas and ballad-farces like Damon and Phillida. The Revolutionary War suspended theatre in New York, but thereafter theatre resumed in 1798, the year the 2,000-seat Park Theatre was built on Chatham Street (now called Park Row). but Laura Keene's "musical burletta" Seven Sisters (1860) shattered previous New York records with a run of 253 performances. It was at a performance by Keene's troupe of Our American Cousin in Washington, D.C. that Abraham Lincoln was shot.

The first theatre piece that conforms to the modern conception of a musical, adding dance and original music that helped to tell the story, is considered to be The Black Crook, which premiered in New York on September 12, 1866. The production was a staggering five-and-a-half hours long, but despite its length, it ran for a record-breaking 474 performances. The same year, The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post was the first show to call itself a "musical comedy." Actors and the crew in these shows tend to regard Sunday evening through Tuesday evening as their "weekend". The Tony award presentation ceremony is usually held on a Sunday evening in June to fit into this schedule.

In recent years, some shows have moved their Tuesday show time an hour earlier to 7 pm.<ref name=schedule/> The rationale for the move was that fewer tourists took in shows midweek, so the Tuesday attendance in particular depends on local audience members. The earlier curtain therefore allows suburban patrons time after a show to get home by a reasonable hour. Some shows, especially those produced by Disney, change their performance schedules fairly frequently, depending on the season, in order to maximize access to their targeted audience.


Both musicals and stage plays on Broadway often rely on casting well-known performers in leading roles to draw larger audiences or bring in new audience members to the theatre. Actors from movies and television are frequently cast for the revivals of Broadway shows or are used to replace actors leaving a cast. There are still, however, performers who are primarily stage actors, spending most of their time "on the boards", and appearing in television and in screen roles only secondarily. As Patrick Healy of the New York Times noted, "Broadway once had many homegrown stars who committed to working on a show for a year, as Nathan Lane has for The Addams Family. In 2010, some theater heavyweights like Mr. Lane were not even nominated; instead, several Tony Awards were given for productions that were always intended to be short-timers on Broadway, given that many of their film-star performers had to move on to other commitments." According to an article by Mark Shenton, "One of the biggest changes to the commercial theatrical landscape—on both sides of the Atlantic—over the past decade or so is that sightings of big star names turning out to do plays has gone up; but the runs they are prepared to commit to has gone down. Time was that a producer would require a minimum commitment from his star of six months, and perhaps a year; now, the 13-week run is the norm."

The minimum size of the Broadway orchestra is governed by an agreement with the musicians union (Local 802, American Federation of Musicians) and the League of American Theatres and Producers. For example, the agreement specifies the minimum size of the orchestra at the Minskoff Theatre to be 18, at the Music Box Theatre to be 9.

Producers and theatre owners

Most Broadway producers and theatre owners are members of The Broadway League (formerly "The League of American Theatres and Producers"), a trade organization that promotes Broadway theatre as a whole, negotiates contracts with the various theatrical unions and agreements with the guilds, and co-administers the Tony Awards with the American Theatre Wing, a service organization. While the League and the theatrical unions are sometimes at loggerheads during those periods when new contracts are being negotiated, they also cooperate on many projects and events designed to promote professional theatre in New York.

The three non-profit theatre companies with Broadway theatres ("houses") belong to the League of Resident Theatres and have contracts with the theatrical unions which are negotiated separately from the other Broadway theatre and producers. (Disney also negotiates apart from the League, as did Livent before it closed down its operations.) However, generally, shows that play in any of the Broadway houses are eligible for Tony Awards (see below).

The majority of Broadway theatres are owned or managed by three organizations: the Shubert Organization, a for-profit arm of the non-profit Shubert Foundation, which owns seventeen theatres (it recently retained full ownership of the Music Box from the Irving Berlin Estate); The Nederlander Organization, which controls nine theatres; and Jujamcyn, which owns five Broadway houses.


Most Broadway shows are commercial productions intended to make a profit for the producers and investors ("backers" or "angels"), and therefore have open-ended runs (duration that the production plays), meaning that the length of their presentation is not set beforehand, but depends on critical response, word of mouth, and the effectiveness of the show's advertising, all of which determine ticket sales. Investing in a commercial production carries a varied degree of financial risk. Shows do not necessarily have to make a profit immediately. If they are making their "nut" (weekly operating expenses), or are losing money at a rate which the producers consider acceptable, they may continue to run in the expectation that, eventually, they will pay back their initial costs and become profitable. In some borderline situations, producers may ask that royalties be temporarily reduced or waived, or even that performers — with the permission of their unions — take reduced salaries, in order to prevent a show from closing. Theatre owners, who are not generally profit participants in most productions, may waive or reduce rents, or even lend a show money in order to keep it running.

Some Broadway shows are produced by non-commercial organizations as part of a regular subscription season—Lincoln Center Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club are the three non-profit theatre companies that currently have permanent Broadway venues. Some other productions are produced on Broadway with "limited engagement runs" for a number of reasons, including financial issues, prior engagements of the performers or temporary availability of a theatre between the end of one production and the beginning of another. However, some shows with planned limited engagement runs may, after critical acclaim or box office success, extend their engagements or convert to open-ended runs. This was the case with 2007's ' and 2009's God of Carnage.

Historically, musicals on Broadway tend to have longer runs than "straight" (i.e. non-musical) plays. On January 9, 2006, The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre became the longest running Broadway musical, with 7,486 performances, overtaking Cats.


Attending a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York. The TKTS booths sell same-day tickets (and in certain cases next-day matinee tickets) for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at a discount of 25%, 35%, or 50%. The TKTS booths are located in Duffy Square, in Times Square, in Lower Manhattan, and in Brooklyn. This service run by Theatre Development Fund makes seeing a show in New York more affordable. Many Broadway theatres also offer special student rates, same-day "rush" or "lottery" tickets, or standing-room tickets to help ensure that their theatres are as full, and their "grosses" as high as possible.

Total Broadway attendance was 12.11 million in calendar year 2010 compared to 11.88 million in 2009.<ref name=playjan/> By way of comparison, London's West End theatre reported total attendance of 14.3 million for major commercial and grant-aided theatres in central London for 2009.

Off-Broadway and US tours

The classification of theatres is governed by language in Actors' Equity Association contracts. To be eligible for a Tony, a production must be in a house with 500 seats or more and in the Theatre District, which criteria define Broadway theatre. Off Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows often provide a more experimental, challenging and intimate performance than is possible in the larger Broadway theatres. Some Broadway shows, however, such as the musicals Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Rent, Avenue Q, and In the Heights, began their runs Off Broadway and later transferred onto Broadway, seeking to replicate their intimate experience in a larger theatre.

After (or even during) successful runs in Broadway theatres, producers often remount their productions with a new cast and crew for the Broadway national tour, which travels to theatre in major cities across the country—the bigger and more successful shows may have several of these touring companies out at a time, some of them "sitting down" in other cities for their own long runs. Smaller cities are eventually serviced by "bus and truck" tours, so-called because the cast generally travels by bus (instead of by air) and the sets and equipment by truck. Tours of this type, which frequently feature a reduced physical production to accommodate smaller venues and tighter schedules, often play "split weeks" (half a week in one town and the second half in another) or "one-nighters", whereas the larger tours will generally play for one or two days per city at a minimum. The Touring Broadway Awards, presented by The Broadway League, honor excellence in touring Broadway.


Broadway productions and artists are honored by the annual Antoinette Perry Awards (commonly called the "Tony Awards, or "Tony") which are awarded by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League, beginning in 1947. The Tony is Broadway's most prestigious award, even compared to the Academy Awards for Hollywood productions. Their importance has increased since the annual broadcast on television began. In a strategy to improve the television ratings, celebrities are often chosen to host the show, like Rosie O'Donnell, some with little or no connection to the theatre. The latest Tony Awards ceremony was held on June 12, 2011. Other awards given to Broadway productions include the Drama Desk Award, presented since 1955, and the New York Drama Critics' Circle awards, first given in 1936.

List of Broadway theatres

  • If no show is currently running, the play listed is the next show planned (dates marked with an *).
  • If the next show planned is not announced, the applicable columns are left blank.
  • Capacity is based on the capacity given for the respective theatre at the Internet Broadway Database.
Theatre Current show Address Capacity Opening
Ambassador Theatre Chicago West 49th Street (#219) 1120 1996-11-14November 14, 1996 Open-ended
American Airlines Theatre The Road to Mecca West 42nd Street (#229) 740 2012-01-17January 17, 2012* 2012-03-04March 4, 2012
Brooks Atkinson Theatre Relatively Speaking West 47th Street (#256) 1109 2011-10-20October 20, 2011 Open-ended
Ethel Barrymore Theatre An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin West 47th Street (#243) 1096 2011-11-21November 21, 2011 2012-01-13January 13, 2012
Vivian Beaumont Theatre (at Lincoln Center) War Horse West 65th Street (#150) 1105 2011-04-14April 14, 2011 Open-ended
Belasco Theatre End of the Rainbow West 44th Street (#111) 1040 2012-04-02April 2, 2012* Open-ended
Booth Theatre Other Desert Cities West 45th Street (#222) 806 2011-11-03 November 3, 2011 Open-ended
Broadhurst Theatre Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway West 44th Street (#235) 1218 2011-11-10 November 10, 2011 2012-01-01January 1, 2012
The Broadway Theatre Sister Act: The Musical Broadway (#1681-@52nd) 1761 2011-04-20 April 20, 2011 Open-ended
Circle in the Square Theatre Godspell West 50th Street (#235) 776 2011-11-07* November 7, 2011 Open-ended
Cort Theatre Stick Fly West 48th Street (#138) 1102 2011-12-08December 8, 2011* Open-ended
Foxwoods Theatre ' West 42nd Street (#213) 1829 2011-06-14 June 14, 2011 Open-ended
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Venus in Fur West 47th Street (#261) 650 2011-11-08November 8, 2011 2011-12-18December 18, 2011
Gershwin Theatre Wicked West 51st Street (#222) 1933 2003-10-30October 30, 2003 Open-ended
John Golden Theatre Seminar West 45th Street (#252) 805 2011-11-20November 20, 2011 2012-03-04March 4, 2012
Helen Hayes Theatre Rock of Ages West 44th Street (#240) 597 2009-04-07April 7, 2009 Open-ended
Al Hirschfeld Theatre How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying West 45th Street (#302) 1437 2011-03-27 March 27, 2011 Open-ended
Imperial Theatre Billy Elliot the Musical West 45th Street (#249) 1435 2008-11-13November 13, 2008 2012-01-08January 8, 2012
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre The Mountaintop West 45th Street (#242) 1101 2011-10-13October 13, 2011 2012-01-15 January 22, 2012
Walter Kerr Theatre Lysistrata Jones West 48th Street (#219) 947 2011-12-14December 14, 2011* Open-ended
Longacre Theatre Chinglish West 48th Street (#220) 1095 2011-10-27October 27, 2011 Open-ended
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre The Addams Family West 46th Street (#205) 1509 2010-04-08April 8, 2010 2011-12-31 December 31, 2011
Lyceum Theatre West 45th Street (#149) 943
Majestic Theatre The Phantom of the Opera West 44th Street (#247) 1609 1988-01-26January 26, 1988 Open-ended
Marquis Theatre Follies Broadway (#1535-@45th) 1615 2011-08-07September 12, 2011 2012-01-22January 22, 2012
Minskoff Theatre The Lion King West 45th Street (#200) 1710 1997-11-13November 13, 1997 Open-ended
Music Box Theatre Private Lives West 45th Street (#239) 1025 2011-11-17November 17, 2011 2012-02-05February 5, 2012
Nederlander Theatre ' West 41st Street (#208) 1232 2012-03-15March 29, 2012* 2012-06-10June 10, 2012
New Amsterdam Theatre Mary Poppins West 42nd Street (#214) 1801 2006-11-16November 16, 2006 Open-ended
Eugene O'Neill Theatre Book of Mormon West 49th Street (#230) 1108 2011-03-24 March 24, 2011 Open-ended
Palace Theatre Priscilla Queen of the Desert Broadway (#1564-@46th) 1743 2011-03-20 March 20, 2011 Open-ended
Richard Rodgers Theatre Porgy and Bess West 46th Street (#226) 1380 2012-01-12January 12, 2012* Open-ended
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre Bonnie & Clyde West 45th Street (#236) 1093 2011-12-01December 1, 2011* Open-ended
Shubert Theatre Memphis West 44th Street (#225) 1468 2009-10-19October 19, 2009 Open-ended
Neil Simon Theatre Jesus Christ Superstar West 52nd Street (#250) 1428 2012-03-22March 22, 2012* Open-ended
Stephen Sondheim Theatre Anything Goes West 43rd Street (#124) 1055 2011-04-07 April 7, 2011 Open-ended
St. James Theatre On a Clear Day You Can See Forever West 44th Street (#246) 1710 2011-12-11December 11, 2011* Open-ended
Studio 54 Harvey West 54th Street (#254) 1006 2012-06-14June 14, 2012* Open-ended
August Wilson Theatre Jersey Boys West 52nd Street (#245) 1222 2005-11-06November 6, 2005 Open-ended
Winter Garden Theatre Mamma Mia! Broadway (#1634-@50th) 1498 2001-10-18October 18, 2001 Open-ended

Upcoming productions

The following have been announced as future Broadway productions. The theatre in which they will run is either not yet known or currently occupied by another show.

Confirmed openings
  • Evita: April 2012 (Marquis Theatre)
  • Ghost the Musical: April 23, 2012 (Lunt-Fontanne Theatre)
  • Nice Work If You Can Get It: April 24, 2012 (Imperial Theatre)
  • Rebecca: April 22, 2012 (Broadhurst Theatre)
  • The Best Man: April 1, 2012 (an undecided Shubert theatre)
  • Death of a Salesman: March 2012 (Ethel Barrymore Theatre)
  • Don't Dress For Dinner: April 26, 2012 (American Airlines Theatre)
  • One Man, Two Guvnors: April 18, 2012 (Music Box Theatre)
  • Wit: January 26, 2012 (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)
To Be Announced
  • Annie: (A Nederlander theatre to be announced)
  • The Wizard of Oz: (theatre unknown)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire: (theatre unknown)

External links

Awards and service organizations
Producers and Unions
News, information and ticket sources