The Playgoer: On Second Thought--Yes, Tax Broadway

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Second Thought--Yes, Tax Broadway

Last week the NY Times editorial page took a stand against the proposed "Broadway Tax" being floated in Gov. Patterson's new emergency budget cuts.

Bully for them.

But upon discovering (after a quick archive search) that they had not run any editorials protesting Patterson's outright arts funding cuts for nonprofits, the cynic in me has to wonder: is this a favor for those Broadway League producers who are among the paper's last loyal advertisers willing to shell out for those glossy full-page Sunday ads? The League, understandably, is going into overdrive to lobby against this measure--which threatens to increase those $100 Broadway ticket prices another 8% potentially, on top of the already who-knows-what percentage for their profit margins.

The Times laments:

Showbiz does cost a bundle, but live theater gets little support from the city or the state — even to subsidize the price of tickets so that less-wealthy theater lovers could afford to go.
Hear, hear! Support "live theatre"! Subsidize tickets!... Oh wait, you're only talking about Broadway?

So this got me thinking: why not. Why not tax Broadway. BUT only if the money then goes to the nonfprofit theatres, to make up for the budget shortfall and their arts funding at least at their current levels.

Yes, I'm suggesting robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or at least robbing the Shuberts to pay the Public.

Think about it: even at 1% that's a dollar for every orchestra tickets at a Broadway show that goes into a fund for the New York nonprofits. And said fund is explicitly designated for paying artist salaries at nonprofit theatres (not for building a new lobby, for fundraising parties, or even for advertising). The point is to keep artists working through these tough times, both on Broadway and off. The more stable a career actors, directors, and designers can have Off Broadway, the more available they'll be to work "on." And with the odds working against long Broadway runs now, the Rialto can't be depended on to support the massive NYC talent pool.

And with nonprofit theatre budgets shrinking next season, expect lots of monologue-shows and two-handers, unless someone comes up with some operating expenses for these companies.

A modest proposal? I'd like to think so. Unfortunately it's all too radical for our corporatized arts scene. Even though Broadway will now continue to poach--I'm sorry "enhance"--from the nonprofit world more than ever as developing their own "product" becomes increasingly unfeasible.


Anonymous said...

But if the money would go to the non-profits, how would that effect MTC and Roundabout which are non-profits that are also on Broadway? Granted, their theaters are only a small percentage of the Broadway theaters.

Playgoer said...

What, you mean I though this through?

Good question, actually.

Well, while we're being hypothetical--yes, tax them, too! Just for their Broadway shows. It's even in their own interest since the tax windfall from their B'way income can help finance their Off B'way season.

I mean--it's not as if the bigger nonprofits are offering some kind of "service" on Broadway, are they? Those tickets sell at the standard B'way prices, don't they? Subsidized my ass.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. But Broadway ALREADY subsidizes not for profits.

By allowing Lincoln Center and MTC and the Roundabout to produce on Broadway at substandard salaries because they are not for profit LORT theatres.

And they do Pajama Game, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie, etc etc.

Broadway subsidizes the not for profit 'farm teams' when a production from them is good enough to transfer and bring income back to the home theatre.