Bright Light$, Big Buck$

4 05 2009

Broadway has been a key location for theatre and entertainment since the eighteenth century. Today, it is one of the many locations in New York that offers several theatrical plays, musicals, and other forms of entertainment. Located in the heart of the city and encompassing New York’s theater district, Broadway is a socio-economic hub for both tourists and locals alike. Broadway, second to none, is considered by to be the entertainment capital of the world.

Amongst being the entertainment capital of the world, Broadway also has a deep history dating back to the first New Amsterdam settlement. Originally being the Wickquasgeck Trail created by Manhattan’s Native-American inhabitants, Broadway soon became the main north-south thoroughfare through Manhattan Island upon the arrival of the Dutch. New York, as well as the United States, did not have a significant theatre presence until the mid 18th century. Broadway did not see its first theatre until the early 19th century with the opening of the premiere night spot, Niblo’s Garden in 1829. Theatres crept their way up to the present day’s theater district in the early 1900’s, but did not consolidate there until the 1920’s and 1930’s. These consolidations brought about the birth of what is known as the modern day theater district (running the length of Broadway between 40th and 53rd streets) and established itself as an entertainment/tourist center of New York City.

Although today’s Broadway is viewed as both the entertainment center and tourist attraction of the city, what many fail to see or just out right take for granted is the fact that Broadway acts as an economic engine for the city. When rationally thought of and put into context, one can see the amounts of money that Broadway rakes in both directly and indirectly. From the ticket sales themselves, to the baby sitters hired for a parents night out to the theater, all the way to the numerous restaurant establishments throughout the theater district, Broadway contributes millions of dollars each year to our currently waning economy to boost us back on our feet.

Split up between the thirty-nine professional theaters located in the theatre district, Broadway is considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Among Broadway’s many contributing economic factors, this representation is depicted in its ticket sales statistics. According to the Broadway League, ticket sales have increased by almost two million (from 10.56 million to 12.32 million) since the 1997 Broadway season. Broadway has also seen an increase in economic gross by $441 million since the 1997 season leaving the gross at $947 million in the 2008 season. Though this information only paints a partial picture of Broadways economic contributions to the city, it shows that without its indirect contribution, it holds as a substantial economic engine, with an ever increasing gross of almost one billion dollars per season.

Not only could Broadway be considered an economic engine for New York City, but also for the nation. But, to what degree does Broadway act as an economic engine for the country? It is a possible argument that Broadway Theater stereotypically caters to the rich due to high ticket prices and tremendous social prestige. Seeing a Broadway show is a very common tourist activity in New York, with many people traveling across the globe just to partake in such a fabled event. But with decent seating tickets ranging from $150 all the way to $450, it is hard not to see how Broadway doesn’t seemingly tend to people of a higher social status.

While social statuses determine the activities in which people do partake, there are many ways to break the Broadway stereotype. With ticket prices usually falling in a price range that isn’t affordable to the average person, Broadway theaters often see audience seats go empty. There are services that exist primarily to help sell those seats that would otherwise go empty while broadening Broadway’s theater audience by making tickets more affordable. TKTS is a prime example of such a service that sells Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets at discounts of twenty-five, thirty-five, and even up to fifty percent off. With these thoughts in mind, more people now indulge themselves in Broadway Theater which helps ensure theaters are filled and gain maximum gross to keep the engine running.

While Broadway helps to generate billions in surrounding restaurant and hotel revenues as well as in ticket sales, there is another pertinent factor that helps contribute not only to the local or national economy, but international as well, the touring Broadway shows. The Broadway League states that touring Broadway shows have brought in an estimated $14.34 billion gross in North American touring ticket sales since the early 1980’s up until the 2008 season (amounting to a sale of 316.6 million tickets within the same time frame).

With Broadway’s insurmountable contributions to the New York economy, it has clearly proven to be much more than an entertainment center. But with Broadway’s numerous economically oblique contributions, it has also proven itself to be a self sustaining economic engine for the nation, while upholding in an international economy. Although Broadway has proven itself an economic engine for New York City as well as the entertainment capital of the world, Broadway has withstood the test of time to emerge as a leading contributor to the United States economy as well as in international affairs.