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Disney’s Frozen on Broadway Won’t Reopen. Equity Says it’s Closing Serves as an Urgent Call to Action to Support the Arts Sector

Stage Directions • Theatre Buzz • May 14, 2020

Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers in live theatre, released the following statement following reports that Disney’s Frozen has announced it will close on Broadway.

“Today’s news should be an all hands-on deck moment for Governor Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio and Congress,” said Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors’ Equity Association. “The arts and entertainment sector drives the economy of New York, just like it does in cities and towns across the country. Decisions made in the days and weeks ahead will shape the future of the arts sector for years to come. Public officials at all levels must think much more boldly about supporting the arts or our entire economy will be slower to recover.”

Disney’s Frozen, which opened on March 22, 2018, is the third Broadway show to announce it is permanently closing during the Coronavirus pandemic, following Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hangmen, which were in previews. While the HEROES Act introduced this week has important health care provisions, including a COBRA subsidy, it still lacks critical provisions to support the arts and entertainment sector.

Among the provisions missing from the HEROES Act that would help the arts and entertainment sector: An emergency $4 billion in supplemental funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Corporation for Public Broadcasting, low interest loans for theaters that do not qualify for NEA funding, restoring the business tax deduction for the purchase of live entertainment tickets and the passage of H.R. 3121, the bipartisan Performing Artist Tax Parity Act. Read more on the priorities of creative professionals for recovery.

In New York City, Broadway attendance tops those of the ten professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined. Broadway surpassed the combined sports teams by over 4.6 million in attendance. During the 2018-2019 season, the Broadway industry contributed $14.7 billion to the economy of New York City and supported 96,900 jobs. According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), 7.5% of New York’s gross state product lies in the arts and cultural sector.

The average nonprofit arts attendee spends another $31.41 per person, per show beyond the cost of admission, according to Americans for the Arts. That includes spending at restaurants, parking and even the babysitter. Nationally, this spending supports 2.3 million jobs, provides $46.6 billion in household income, and generates $15.7 billion in total government revenue.

Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin: Relief Bills Have Not Helped the Arts: “Unfortunately, nothing the government has done has helped our members that produce shows and theater owners who have to keep these historic monuments open and successful. We certainly would love to see an extension of the employment benefits for our workers and ideally support for healthcare beyond when they will be covered through whatever their contract says. But for the producers, we need tax credits, we need opportunity for loans at low interest or no interest, because Broadway is a very risky business. We anticipate anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of losses. So we are reaching out to government officials, hoping that in their next round of relief that somewhere we will be included.” [“On Stage,” NY1, May 12, 2020]

Actors’ Equity Association, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. #EquityWorks.

 

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