As Broadway Struggles, Governor Hochul Proposes Expanded Tax Credit

on Jan19
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As Broadway continues to reel from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing to expand and extend a pandemic tax credit intended to help the commercial theater industry rebound.

Ms. Hochul on Tuesday proposed budgeting $200 million for the New York City Musical and Theatrical Production Tax Credit, which provides up to $3 million per show to help defray production costs.

“They were starting to recover before Omicron, and then, as you have all seen, a lot of these performance venues had to shut down again, and those venues are critical for the economy,” the state budget director, Robert Mujica, told reporters.

The tax credit program, which began last year under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was initially capped at $100 million. Early indications are that interest is high: Nearly three dozen productions have told the state they expect to apply, said Matthew Gorton, a spokesman for Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.

The Hochul administration decided to seek to expand the tax credit program — and to extend the initial application deadline, from Dec. 31, 2022 to June 30, 2023 — as it became clear that Broadway’s recovery from its lengthy pandemic shutdown would be bumpier than expected.

Shows began resuming performances last summer, and many were drawing good audiences — Ms. Hochul visited “Chicago” and “Six” in October, while Mr. Gorton saw “The Lehman Trilogy” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But the industry is now struggling after a spike in coronavirus cases prompted multiple cancellations over the ordinarily lucrative holiday season, and then attendance plunged. Last week, 66 percent of Broadway seats were occupied, according to the Broadway League; that’s up from 62 percent the previous week, but down from 95 percent during the comparable week before the pandemic.

“Clearly, we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Jeff Daniel, who is the chairman of the Broadway League’s Government Relations Committee, as well as co-chief executive of Broadway Across America, which presents touring shows in regional markets. Mr. Daniel, still recovering from his own recent bout of Covid, welcomed the governor’s proposal, and said the League would work to urge the Legislature to approve it.

“Every show we can open drives jobs and economic impact,” said Mr. Daniel, who noted the close economic relationship between Broadway and other businesses, including hotels and restaurants. “If we can maximize Broadway, we maximize tourism.”

Under the program, shows can receive tax credits to cover up to 25 percent of many production expenditures, including labor. As a condition of the credit, shows must have a state-approved diversity and arts job training program, and take steps to make their productions accessible to low-income New Yorkers.

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