Group Says Costumed Panhandlers are to Blame for Low Broadway Sales

finebydesign Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
This is really hard to believe. I understand they are nuisance but as someone who lives in NYC and seen the proliferation of them they don't harass. The new park space has actually made it easier for promoters to get out.

I also wasn't aware there was a drop. Quite frankly people coming to the city expecting to get a ticket(s) to a "good show" at a reasonable rate day of, aren't going to find one anyway.

The article
Updated On: 7/10/14 at 12:17 PM
Wee Thomas2 Profile Photo
Wee Thomas2
Leading Actor
No no no!! Those are "Street Counselors", and they have every right to recommend that you give them money instead of going to B'way shows.
AC126748 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Well, I'm a "local theatergoer" who lives in Hell's Kitchen and usually sees shows multiple times a week. And while I'm aware of the presence of these mascots, I've certainly never been "accosted" by one, and it's never stopped me from going to the theatre. The Broadway League should look in its own backyard if they want to know why attendance is down--it probably has more to do with sky-high prices and premiums than Dora the Explorer waving at passing tourists.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
finebydesign Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
If the costumes weren't so I-don't-know off-model, I think they are kinda cool. There is pretty much NOTHING to do in Time Square as it is. It's a really big missed opportunity for Disney.

Has anyone seen Elsa and Ana out there yet? I feel like someone could make bank right now. The lines at Disney are up to 5 hours.
jkstheatrescene Profile Photo
I think "accosted" is a pretty harsh word. I am frequently in the area where these characters are, and any that have approached me move quickly away when I say, "No thank you."

Where they ARE a problem is when they get bunched up in place, essentially blocking the flow of foot traffic. And on two most recent visits to Times Square, I've noticed that they have inched closer to street corners, making the crossing more difficult. It is especially a problem when it is raining.

All of that said, they have not once kept me from seeing a show on Broadway, including shows actually ON Broadway, where they could potentially cause the most disruption to ticket sales - The Palace (Holler has much bigger problems than Elmo) and the Winter Garden. I'd say that the biggest problem of all is the very messy and ever expanding Marriott renovation.
Favorite Shows of the 2014 - 2015 season (so far): The Last Ship, Finding Neverland Favorite shows of the 2013 - 2014 season: Fun Home, The Glass Menagerie, After Midnight, The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then, The Most Happy Fella
finebydesign Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I will say those Tour Bus pushers are starting to get out of hand. They are pretty aggressive.
Patti LuPone FANatic Profile Photo
Patti LuPone FANatic
Broadway Legend
While I think that some people might be put off by those costumed panhandlers, I don't believe that they are the sole reason for low Broadway sales. As someone already mentioned, some people are bothered by high ticket prices. Also, low sales can also depend on specific shows. If certain shows are not doing so well, it could be for a variety of reasons...not because someone is dressed as Elmo. I wouldn't be upset if those costumed panhandlers were kicked out of Times Square.
Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk): "I love children. That's why I work with Michael (Riedel)."
FishermanBob Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
"We are actually seeing a decline in local theatergoers and they tell us that it's because they are accosted, they are overwhelmed,"

If simply walking by one of those characters "overwhelms" them, then attending a live show may be too much sensory overload for them anyway.
FindingNamo Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I accidentally gave hundreds of my premium Broadway seat dollars to Cookie Monster!
Let's all "put LaChiusa over Mozart" [whatever that means] and make empty heads explode!
Wait, are sales really that far down? Perhaps in terms of total tickets sold? I swear that around Tonys time there were articles everywhere saying ticket revenue was outstanding. Perhaps it's like concert tickets nowadays where less people are going but revenues are up due to high prices?

I'm confused to say the least ha
Jordan Catalano Profile Photo
Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
"I accidentally gave hundreds of my premium Broadway seat dollars to Cookie Monster!"

That was Mrs. Roxy. That's how they get money to go to the theater and then complain about it.
Featured Actor
When I lived in New York I was never "accosted" by any of these guys. I know that the midtown pan-handlers can have a very "in-your-face" approach, but I just kept walking.

I can see how tourists can be distracted by them, but I don't think any tourists are actually prevented from buying theatre tickets by their presence.

What always amazes me is that there are Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Woody, Buzz Lightyear etc, all casually wandering around right outside the Disney store! These guys SURELY can't have permission from Disney to do this, so how do they get away with it? Disney does have something of a reputation for shooting down unlicensed appearances by their own characters, you'd think they'd never allow it to happen on their own doorstep!
Mister Matt Profile Photo
Mister Matt
Broadway Legend
Those costumes are all so gross and they definitely target children. I don't know how they operate, if they demand payment before or after a photo, but I saw lots of parents who were having to deal with an awkward situation because their child spotted the characters and flipped out. They make me uncomfortable, but the tour bus people are a huge nuisance, especially if you're staying at Row NYC.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
Broadway Star
Maybe if that fat cartoon character Charlotte St. Martin weren't such a greedy pig in a bad wig with lots of jewelry, and lowered ticket prices, then more people would go to the theater. Didn't they break records for attendance and grosses last year meaning more profits? What a stupid excuse. Charlotte honey- locals would not be caught dead in Times Square unless they work there or go to the TKTS booth. This evil woman justs wants to take away these people's jobs. But she wants to keep the obnoxious marketing hawkers there.
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel Profile Photo
WhizzerMarvin TrinaJasonMendel
Broadway Legend
This article was ridiculous! What a bizarre scapegoat to choose for the reason that there are less New Yorkers going to the theater.

The real reason is that the high ticket prices are making it more difficult for New Yorkers to be regular theatergoers. Seeing a Broadway show has solely become a tourist destination- just like seeing a show in Las Vegas. I don't know why they are surprised to find fewer New Yorkers are filling the seats.

Marie: Don't be in such a hurry about that pretty little chippy in Frisco. Tony: Eh, she's a no chip!
Phantom of London Profile Photo
Phantom of London
Broadway Legend
Are they getting confused? With those pimps who stand in the TKT's line, pushing their shows with clipboards and leaflets?
adam.peterson44 Profile Photo
Broadway Star
What a stupid article. Nowhere in the article does it even say that the number of attendees from the NY suburbs is down - only that the *proportion* has slightly dropped, with the proportion of tourists from outside the area increasing. That change is consistent with a scenario in which all of the numbers are up, but the tourist numbers went up more than the suburban numbers - they simply don't say what the actual numbers are doing. To then blame the panhandlers for the change in proportions is bizarre, because it suggests that suburnanites are more annoyed by panhandlers than tourists or New Yorkers, without suggesting any reasons why that might be so.

I have to agree with the two posters who have said that the bus hawkers are far more obnoxious and annoying than the characters. I see a lot more characters when i come to town and none has ever accosted me or blocked my path. The bus hawkers, on the other hand, are constantly accosting every time i walk by them, and constantly standing in the middle of a fairly narrow sidewalk (8th ave being more narrow than the larger pedestrian zones of times square) and blocking the flow of foot traffic while being obnoxious. If anyone was to be regulated, I would be much more in favor of regulating the bus hawkers than the characters.
James885 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Wow, that's absolutely ridiculous. I've never been accosted by any of the costumed characters in Times Square either. I agree that the hawkers are much more annoying, especially the ones who plant themselves in the middle of the sidewalk.

The Broadway League should point the finger at their own high ticket prices as the reason from driving local theatergoers away from shows.
"You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!" - Betty Parris to Abigail Williams in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
Broadway Joe Profile Photo
Broadway Joe
Broadway Star
I actually find the comedy show scam artists to be the most annoying. They always have some line that isn't funny to say to people when they say no.

I'm even more amazed that people actually buy tickets from them. Even if they are tourists they should know better.
E.Davis Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I truly hate the costumed characters because they are too bizarre, but I am way more accosted by the Cheetahs, Tour Bus and Comedy show people than them. I work in Times Square....I know the struggle.
"I think lying to children is really important, it sets them off on the right track" -Sherie Rene Scott-
SweetLips Profile Photo
Broadway Star
No matter how you dress these people or call them fancy names like 'panhandlers'-they are all just beggars with a gimmick-yes, 'you've gotta have a gimmick'.
Go to any Asian country and after 10mins of constant street harrassement the words 'fcuk off' spring readily to your lips-but smile as you say it.
darquegk Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Not beggars, buskers.

A beggar says "I deserve your money, please give with no strings attached." A busker says "I'm gonna do something, so see if you're obligated to give to me now."

Good buskers are performers with talent or a good gimmick. Bad buskers are those squeegee ninjas who swoop in and catch you unawares. In between are the costumed characters.
Broadway Star
Lolol Wee Thomas, 'street counselors'.
Patti LuPone FANatic Profile Photo
Patti LuPone FANatic
Broadway Legend
"With those pimps who stand in the TKT's line, pushing their shows with clipboards and leaflets?" It is highly insulting to call those hardworking people by using such a derogatory term. You may not like what they do, but they are doing their job. This is "A true new low" from you, Phantom of London (which is a term you used not too long ago). Back at you.

Susan Haskins (Theatre Talk): "I love children. That's why I work with Michael (Riedel)."
Updated On: 7/10/14 at 06:03 PM
JMPlayer6 Profile Photo
Featured Actor
I don't believe this is the reason. OK, maybe---just maybe--- it's a small factor in the decline, but not a significant factor, which I imagine is due to such things as (1) the shows that are in the theaters now and/or (2) economics and/or (3) shifting demographics.
Shows seen in 2015 (in NYC unless noted): 1/4 Morality Play (Gamm Theatre); 1/11 Private Lives (Hartford Stage); 1/18 A Perfect Future (Speakeasy, Boston); 1/24 Constellations; 1/24 Sleep No More; 1/25 Beautiful (second time); 2/1 Caught in the Net (Bradley Playhouse, Putnam CT); 2/7 Lady Be Good (Encores); 2/7 Hamilton; 2/8 Texas in Paris; 2/13 Proposals (Worcester Light Opera); 2/21 Into the Woods; 2/21 Fish in the Dark; 2/22 On the Twentieth Century; 3/1 Intimate Apparel (Lyric Stage, Boston); 3/7 Bad Jews (Long Wharf); 3/7 Beauty and the Beast (New Haven; previously seen on Broadway); 3/15 Almost, Maine (Barre Players; 3/21 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Paper Mill); 3/21 Hazel Flagg; 3/22 The Audience (previously seen at local movie theater) ... Forthcoming: 4/4 The Pianist of Willesden Lane (Hartford Stage); 4/11 The King and I (had seen prior Broadway revival, also elsewhere); 4/11 Pardon My English; 4/12 Doctor Zhivago; 4/19 They're Playing Our Song (Worcester Light Opera); 4/25 Hand to God; 4/25 An American in Paris; 4/25 Finding Neverland (had seen at ART); 5/2 Rumors (MMAS); 5/3 And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (2nd Story); 5/9 Fun House; 5/9 It Shoulda Been You; 5/10 Gigi; 5/16 The Second Mrs. Wilson (Long Wharf); 5/30 Skylight; 5/30 Something Rotten!; 5/31 Ever After (Paper Mill); 6/13 Cagney; 6/13 Living on Love; 6/14 Airline Highway; 6/28 Newsies (Boston; 5th time overall); 7/10 Bells Are Ringing (Berkshire Theatre; previously seen at Encores); 7/11 Man of La Mancha (Barrington Stage Co.); 7/18 The Heidi Chronicles; 7/18 The Visit (previously seen at Williamstown); 7/19 An Act of God
jnb9872 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
LOL at FANatic for taking umbrage with the word "pimp" - they are literally pimping their show. That is their job. They represent a night of entertainment that would like your money and they are advertising it and pushing it so that you would pay for the delight of experiencing it and they then receive a kickback of the money you pay afterwards. That is literally what they are doing.

I think this is most likely a little sideways push on that licensing-and-regulating push for the costumed panhandlers, which I think is very warranted. I haven't been accosted personally, but I've heard friends' stories and seen it look it would happen were it not for an intervening third party. The city has a vested interest in tourism, and maintaining the most popular and iconic tourist district by regulating those who want to make a living there is well within the city's responsibilities if you ask me.

But it sure as sh!t ain't as big a reason for sales patterns as exorbitant prices and scalpers are.
Words don't deserve that kind of malarkey. They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good anymore…I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.