Ten months after Broadway went dark, shutting down everything from Hamilton and Mean Girls to Phantom of the Opera and Aladdin, it’s still unclear when the Great White Way will reopen to fans who hunger to see live theater.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has some relatively optimistic news about when Broadway might turn on the lights during the coronavirus pandemic.
If the COVID-19 vaccines work like they should and enough people take them to get to herd immunity (which would require vaccinating at least 70% of the population and maybe as much as 85%) by the fall of 2021, Fauci said, “By the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience.”
According to Broadway World, Fauci said that if theaters have the proper ventilation, people could start returning to their seats, though they still might have to wear masks. It’s unclear if theaters would require patrons to show proof of their vaccination, the way you might have to in the future if you’re traveling via airplane, but Fauci said he could see shows reaching “almost full capacity of seating.”
It would, of course, be a much-needed change for the arts community. According to the Americans for the Arts, via the New York Times, the arts industry has lost an estimated $14.8 billion during the coronavirus shutdown. Many other “nonprofit arts and cultural organizations” have had to lay off or furlough their staffs since March.
Meanwhile, Broadway employed about 97,000 people that have been out of work since everything shut down, and The Actors Fund reportedly raised more than $14 million for 12,000 workers last April.
Even when Broadway does reopen, it might not be easy to attract a sold-out crowd. According to Fortune, about 65% of Broadway audiences are tourists from out of town. The Broadway League estimates that it might take until 2025 before tourists fully return to Broadway shows.
Still, Fauci seems enthusiastic about the reopening of Broadway.
“We’ll be back in the theaters—performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” Fauci said. “It will happen.”