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What makes a theatre a sanctioned Broadway Theatre?

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winston89
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There was a thread that is now on page 2. The thread spoke about how someone didn't realize that the Vivian Beaumont wasn't always a considered a Broadway theatre.

that lead into a small discussion and I was wondering if I could get a more detailed answer if I started a new thread.

The question is what makes a theatre a sanctioned Broadway theatre. I know that 500+ seats makes a theatre a Broadway theatre and anything less then 500 makes it an off Broadway theatre. However, there are theatres that have more then 500 seats and that aren't considered Broadway theatres. For example I am talking about places like Radio City, Theatre at Madison Square Garden, City Center, the Met etc etc.

What makes a theatre a sanctioned Broadway theatre and what quilifications must a theatre meet in order to become one? Does it have to do with what kind of productions it mounts?
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Updated On: 7/14/08 at 11:40 PM
sroderick2
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I'd like to get a detailed answer as well...my friend asked me this very question the other day and I honestly didn't know. I said it was probably based on location and size but that felt a little flimsy.
ZiggyCringe
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Winston,

This is a question with many, many answers.

The thing is, there is no hard and fast rule.

I'm glad you brought it up, because "Damn Yankees," which is playing a 3500 seat theatre in the theatre district, is being considered Off-Broadway. Which is odd. The chorus peeps in "Damn Yankees" are making nearly nothing a week, because it's considered "Off-Broadway."

While Lincoln Center is doing "South Pacific" at a 1500 seat theatre in a district that is outside of Broadway, but it's considered a Broadway show.

It comes down to the unions. A "Broadway" theatre is goverened by the rules of AEA, and all the Local musicians unions, and all the stagehand unions.

In the case of Lincoln Center, they have different contracts, because it's a not-for-profit.

The unions charge different things for different venues. If you are at a Broadway venue, you have to pay all of your employees a much larger wage than you do at an Off-Broadway venue. The general rule is 499 seats.

The Helen Hayes, where "Xanadu" is playing, is 499 seats. It's considered a Broadway house. The peeps doing "Xanadu" are making Broadway salaries. However, the bizarre thing, is over at City Center, which is considered an "Off-Broadway" theatre (even though it is over 3,000 seats), they only have to pay union members the Off-Broadway minimum, which is substantially lower than the Broadway one.

It's a mares nest.

It makes no sense. But it is what it is.
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winston89
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So basically it comes down to how they use the unions? I assume that in a Broadway theatre has a different contract with the local unions then an off Broadway theatre would. And, I know that non profits each have their own contracts with the unions which is why during the strike the non profits and Poppins continued to play while the rest of Broadway was dark because all of those theatres had thier own seperate contracts with the stage hands and weren't part of what is now called the Broadway League.

That being said, based on what you said I could say that it is clear why something like Radio City isn't a Broadway house because when christimas time roles around and they are doing the christmas show they have a seperate contract with the local 802 then whatever they have on Broadway.

I can understand a theatre being a Broadway theatre because they follow the contract rules that were agreed upon between the Producers League and all the unions on Broadway. But, what makes theatres like The New Amsterdam, LCT, Roundabout MTC and the Helen Hays and the Circle in The Square Broadway theatres if they have thier own contracts with the unions just like every other concert venue in the city does?
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
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ljay889
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City Center does NOT have over 3,000 seats. It is aprox. 2750.
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FOAnatic
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I was under the impression that the Helen Hayes seated 597.
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ljay889
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IBDB says the Hayes IS 597 seats.
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winston89
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In terms of the number of seats the Helen Hays has that sounds more right to me. I was thinking that if the Helen Hayes had 499 seats wouldn't it technically be an off Broadway house if it less then 500?
"If you try to shag my husband while I am still alive, I will shove the art of motorcycle maintenance up your rancid little Cu**. That's a good dear" Tom Stoppard's Rock N Roll
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theatreguy
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A lot of it is just based on history and because that's "just the way it's always been."

According to the official Tony Rules, a Broadway theater must have 500 or more seats, be used principally for the presentation of legitimate theatrical productions and "be deemed otherwise qualified by the Tony Awards Administration Committee."

So venues like City Center or Radio City Music Hall aren't considered Broadway because of a combination of the second and third requirements. Though the rules do state that the Committee may add a theater, even if only for a single season, if someone (ie, producers) requests it.

That info is on the fifth page of the rulebook.

And, for the record, Damn Yankees IS running on the Production Contract (the contract used for Broadway and major touring productions).
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NSLV
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Yes, terms like Broadway and Off-Broadway are primarily union terms. As mentioned, Broadway houses are theaters that have over 500 seats, but they also specifically fall within a specific geographic boundary. I think its bordered by 41st St in the south, 6th Ave in the east, 54th St in the north, and 9th Ave in the west AND specifically Lincoln Center as well. Then again, if someone were to build a new 500+ seat house within those boundaries, it doesn't default to being a Broadway house. Theaters are also designated Broadway houses if they meet the above parameters AND if the various unions (mainly the Broadway League) agrees on it.

Unions negotiate with the theater owners (IATSE--the tech union) and producers (AEA--actors union) through their collective bargaining union (The Broadway League) and generally speaking, most theaters have the same contracts. Independently owned theaters like the Helen Hayes, Circle in the Square, etc. negotiate separate contracts with IATSE and hence, were not affected by the strike. Disney also has their own production contract which differs slightly from the one the league uses.

When a not-for-profit produces on Broadway in one of their spaces, like Roundabout or MTC, they don't actually work on a Production contract but usually rather a LORT (League of Resident Theaters) A category contract, which is the highest level that only theaters which are "grandfathered in" can reach. The LORT contract has special provisions for not-for-profit productions on Broadway. (I'd guess that since South Pacific is now playing commercially, it's on a production contract) The pay is considerably less than what you'd be making on a production contract. But it's still considered Broadway.

Meanwhile, something like say, Cirque Dreams is not an Equity show, but it's still considered Broadway. Equity has no jurisdiction over things that don't have dialogue, such as that or Blue Man Group. But it still playing on Broadway, but I'd guess that it'd probably be ineligible for the Tonys.

Off-Broadway is anything in Manhattan ONLY that has between 100-499 seats. Again, it's a union term. But there are many different Off-Broadway AEA contract, such as Off-Broadway (used for commercial runs), ANTC (used for small not-for-profits), and MINI (a transitional contract from Off-Off-Broadway) to name a few. With Off-Broadway, actors must be AEA but tech crews are usually not members of IATSE. Some of the bigger theatres do have IATSE crews Off-Broadway but I don't believe they're required to use them. It also depends on the house.

Meanwhile Off-Off-Broadway is any theater in Manhattan below 99 seats or any theater in a another borough. Many Off-Off-Broadway shows are governed by what are called Equity Showcases, which essentially allow AEA actors to do non-union work. There is a small set of rules that limits rehearsal hours and number of performances. If a Showcase decides it wants to extend beyond its alloted number of performances, it automatically becomes an Off-Broadway production on the MINI contract, even if its in a theater too small to be considered Off-Broadway.

Hope this answers some of your questions!
RyToast1
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City Center has 2,753 seats, and the performers are making the Broadway minimum, which means everyone is making at least $1,509 a week.
NSLV
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I would be willing to bet that the performers in Damn Yankess (ok the leads) are making a helluva lot more than $1509 a week!

By the by, according to Playbill.com:
"City Center Encores! has its own special contracts with Equity, and according to the contract that applies to City Center Encores! new summer productions Gypsy is the first"
WOSQ
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Shows playing venues under the Production Contract but not already listed as a Broadway House can petition to be Tony eligible.

This hasn't had to happen recently, but in the good old days, the Eden/Entermedia Theatre (which is now a 7 theatre cineplex) at 2nd Ave and E 12th St had one show in particular that was Tony-nominated. It was called Grease. It was moved uptown 4-5 months into that long run.

Man of La Mancha opened in a temporary theatre called the ANTA Washington Square on W 4th St and won Best Musical while playing there. That run lasted well over a year until this temporary structure was demolished. La Mancha moved to the Beck/Hirschfeld.

After a few seasons at the Beck, la Mancha was forced out and because there was no other uptown theatre available, it played the Eden for a few weeks. This was in 1971.

As for what the leads of Damn Yankees are making, yes, it would be above scale, but not hugely so. Think about it: 5-6 weeks work in NY in a show everyone knows being done in a high profile venue and that will act as a good showcase for future opportunities with out being tied up for 6-12 months like an open-end run. So you take a little less money (or a lot less) and you're not spending the summer sitting on your tail, or worse, trouping some rinky-dink production that no one will see with a piano in the pit--if there is a pit at all.

"If my life weren't funny, it would just be true. And that would be unacceptable." --Carrie Fisher
LindaTNo1
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It probably has to do with unions and contracts. Very interesting thread here. I had not thought about the differences in the numbers of seats, locations of theaters, as such. Good read here!

Have a wonderful day!

Bohoboy
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NSLV answered most of these questions (and very well, I might add), but there were a few errors in what was stated.

"Unions negotiate with the theater owners (IATSE--the tech union) and producers (AEA--actors union) through their collective bargaining union (The Broadway League)"

The Broadway League (formerly the League of American Theatres and Producers) is not a union, it is a trade organization. It can't be a union as it is not Labor, but Management. This is Management as a union term. There is a union -- ATPAM (Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers) that represents Press Agents and Company Managers. But for the sake of clarity, let's call the producers "Management" with a capital "M". There are also other unions that have, for the most part, been left out of the conversation AFM-802 (musicians) and USA-829 (designers) come to mind immediately, though I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting.

"When a not-for-profit produces on Broadway in one of their spaces, like Roundabout or MTC, they don't actually work on a Production contract but usually rather a LORT (League of Resident Theaters) A category contract, which is the highest level that only theaters which are "grandfathered in" can reach. The LORT contract has special provisions for not-for-profit productions on Broadway. (I'd guess that since South Pacific is now playing commercially, it's on a production contract) The pay is considerably less than what you'd be making on a production contract. But it's still considered Broadway."

The rules that govern Broadway Productions under a LORT-A agreement apply to three NFP companies LCT, MTC and Roundabout. There are portions of the LORT Rulebook that apply separately and only to these three companies. Once a production plays it's "originally scheduled run" at LCT or a certain number of weeks (13 weeks for MTC and between 12 and 18 weeks for Roundabout - dependent on which theatre and whether it is a musical or a play), the salaries go to the current Production Contract scale.

"Meanwhile, something like say, Cirque Dreams is not an Equity show, but it's still considered Broadway. Equity has no jurisdiction over things that don't have dialogue, such as that or Blue Man Group. But it still playing on Broadway, but I'd guess that it'd probably be ineligible for the Tonys."

I'm not certain that we can make that determination about CIRQUE DREAMS just yet. It might be eligible for a Special Theatrical Event Tony, the Nominating Committee will have to make that determination when they meet later in the season. There is a precedent with the first of such Tonys going to a non-union show; BLAST! -- so they might consider it eligible, we'll just have to wait and see.

"Off-Broadway is anything in Manhattan ONLY that has between 100-499 seats. Again, it's a union term. But there are many different Off-Broadway AEA contract, such as Off-Broadway (used for commercial runs), ANTC (used for small not-for-profits), and MINI (a transitional contract from Off-Off-Broadway) to name a few."

The MINI Contract only covers houses that are 99 seats and below. All rules not covered in the addendum that is the MINI Contract are governed by the Off-Broadway Rulebook.

"Meanwhile Off-Off-Broadway is any theater in Manhattan below 99 seats or any theater in another borough. Many Off-Off-Broadway shows are governed by what are called Equity Showcases, which essentially allow AEA actors to do non-union work. There is a small set of rules that limits rehearsal hours and number of performances."

There are a myriad of other rules that govern the Equity Basic Showcase Code, they include a budget cap of $20,000, the number of performances in a week, the number of weeks you can perform, the ratio of weekday/weekend performances and the prohibition of any recording (even for archival purposes) -- just to name a few.

All of these agreements and codes can be found on the AEA website, which I am pasting below. Feel free to PM me with any questions.


NSLV, you know your stuff. I rarely post on here, but your answers prompted me to come out of BWW Board retirement. Thanks.

Actors' Equity Document Library
I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of a tightrope dancer, so that no incompetent would dare step upon it. -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
NSLV
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Thanks for filling in the details Bohoboy! You too seem to know your stuff very very well! May I ask how you acquired such an extensive knowledge?
NSLV
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Bohoboy, your PMs seem to be turned off.
Bohoboy
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That's odd. I don't have anyone blocked and I don't know how to turn them off/on. Try again?
I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of a tightrope dancer, so that no incompetent would dare step upon it. -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
NSLV
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It still says you don't accept PMs.... If you go to the screen where you can edit your account/profile there are options about PMs.
Bohoboy
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Fixed. I should be accepting PMs now.
I wish the stage were as narrow as the wire of a tightrope dancer, so that no incompetent would dare step upon it. -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe