NYC suburbanites shun Broadway over ‘safety concerns’: survey

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By Dan Sears

Broadway is attracting fewer theatergoers from New York City suburbs — and a major reason is “safety concerns” about Manhattan, according to a survey.

The Great White Way sold 12.3 million tickets for the 2022-2023 season — a 17% drop versus 2018-2019, the last complete season before Broadway shut down because of the pandemic, according to data the Broadway League released last month.

New York metro suburbanites accounted for a mere 14% or 1.7 million of the overall tickets last season – the lowest number on record in the 23 years the Broadway League has tracked such data.

The Broadway League declined to comment on the dip.

“We do not speculate generally about the numbers,” spokesperson Scalla Jakso said in an email.  

Even as tourism to the the Big Apple is rebounding, the city has a perception problem among New York metro suburbanites who are over 55 years old, said Damian Bazadona, president of Situation Group.

Half of suburbanites who have not returned to Broadway cited “concerns about safety” as a primary reason for why they see fewer shows, according to a survey by the marketing and advertising firm. A whopping 41% of suburbanites said “I travel to Manhattan for pleasure less often than I did in 2019.”

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Broadway shut down during the pandemic and just completed it first full season since the pandemic. Getty Images

Overall crime in the five boroughs was down 5% through Dec. 24, compared to the same period a year ago, according to NYPD data. Murders declined 11% and shootings were down 24% from a year ago.

Nevertheless, assaults were up 6% and car thefts were up 15%.

The Situation Group survey, which polled some 1,700 Broadway ticket buyers nationwide, found that just 30% of suburbanites attributed their cutback on shows to work-from-home issues. 

“Our data shows that the [reasons] are much broader than just a reluctance to work in the city,” Bazadona told The Post.

The Situation Group survey also found that 50% of suburbanites who are pulling back on theater say there are fewer shows they are interested in seeing.

Aladdin is among the legacy shows on Broadway that experts say are packed with theatergoers.

Charlotte St. Martin, President of The Broadway League, said in a statement last month that the most recent season saw “the highest percentage of audience diversity to date as 29% of attendees identified as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color).

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“This is likely from a combination of outreach efforts as well as more shows being written and/or starring people of color,” St. Martin added.

The average age of Broadway theatergoers was 40.4 years-old, the youngest in the past 20 seasons, Broadway League reported. 

Nevertheless, many new shows have lacked the staying power of legacy productions like 20-year-old “Wicked” and “Chicago,” which has had a 27-year run. Several of the dozen or so shows that have closed over the past year were only open for weeks or months, including “Bad Cinderella,” “Camelot,” “KPOP,” and “Ain’t no Mo.”

Some experts speculate that newer Broadway shows may not resonate with audiences, particularly suburbanites. AP

“There have been a significant number of well reviewed shows and [they] are just not resonating with the suburban market for some reason,” Bazadona said.

New Yorkers comprise 35% of the attendance with city residents accounting for 22%. Another 47.5% of theatergoers came from other parts of the US, according to the League.

Investment banker David Wasserman of Solomon Partners, who is advising a legacy Broadway production company, said, “Maybe some of the newer shows are not tapping into audiences’ tastes.”

“From what I observed shows are packed, especially legacy shows and ticket prices are higher and people are paying it,” Wasserman said.

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Merrie, an avid theatergoer who lives in Westchester, said most of her friends who have stopped going to shows complain about “ticket prices going through the roof” while her parents’ generation — people who are over 60 years old — are worried about safety issues, she told The Post.

“I know a ton of people who aren’t going to shows anymore,” she said.

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