While Broadway theaters and midtown TV studios were back in business within about two days of Superstorm Sandy, much of downtown New York – its off-Broadway theaters, independent movie theaters, Lower East Side concert halls and Chelsea galleries – only got power back late Saturday.
Uptown, Carnegie Hall was pushing ahead with hopes of reopening for Tuesday concerts, having been shuttered for a week because of the storm-damaged hanging crane on West 57th Street.
For the first time, the Office of Film Theatre and Broadcasting began issuing permits on a case-by-case basis for film shoots in exterior locations, meaning the city streets would again be providing background for the two dozen TV series shooting in New York and the dozen-plus movies in production. Permits for location shooting in the city’s Zone A – including Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn – were still not being issued.
“We’re getting back on track and back into business,” said Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “There was minimal damage to stages last week – a little bit of water damage here and there. But they were able to get back on stages at the end of last week and, as of today and going forward, they will be on exterior locations as well.”
Not yet clear was the overall economic impact the storm had on the city’s film and TV industries, which last year employed 130,000 people and generated $7.1 billion in revenue, according to the mayor’s office. Oliver said an estimate for the cost of impacted film and TV production wasn’t yet possible.
The surely affected weekly grosses of Broadway theaters were to be announced late Monday. Many downtown off-Broadway theaters – which were dark for days longer than Broadway theaters – are offering discounted tickets with the code “SANDY” to lure back audiences.
For many downtown destinations, losing nearly a week’s business was a significant hit. The nonprofit Film Forum, one of the city’s most beloved movie art houses, was essentially closed for six days as it waited to get power back.
“That’s a big loss of business. For us, that hurts. For any theater, that hurts,” said Karen Cooper, president and director of the Film Forum, lamenting not only the loss of box office, but the lesser attention to its currently playing films.
“My assumption is that movies are always open,” said Cooper, who only closed for two days following Sept. 11. “They’re open on Christmas. They’re open on Thanksgiving. They’re open 365 days a year. They’re a public trust, OK? You can quote me.”
Though several productions were delayed, Hollywood was weathering the storm quite well. Though at one point some 300 movie theaters had been forced to close, most were online by the weekend.
Ticket sales for the weekend box office were brisk, even on the East Coast, where many sought escapism in warm theaters. Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” earned $49.1 million and Paramount’s “Flight,” took in $25 million – both surpassing expectations.
“If there was a theater that wasn’t running, the theater around it was doing almost as much business to completely make up for those that weren’t operating,” said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. “It may have taken a little more driving, a little more work, but it seems as though people were willing to make the effort to find the show.”
The National Book Awards ceremony, a highlight of the fall publishing season, is still scheduled for Nov. 14 even though the offices for the awards’ organizers, the National Book Foundation, have been closed because of flooding and will not re-open before next week.
The struggle to work through the storm was difficult for many media outlets, particularly New York Magazine, which had to relocate to a board room in the midtown offices of its parent company, New York Media. Staffers hauled computers from the magazine offices just south of Astor Place so that an improvised newsroom could be set up in order to get this week’s issue out on time.
“We’re back to our normal offices and never appreciated them more,” Editor-in-Chief Adam Moss said Monday. He called the experience of getting the magazine out “both trying and exhilarating.”
The National Book Awards ceremony, a highlight of the fall publishing season, is still scheduled for Nov. 14 even though the offices for the awards’ organizers, the National Book Foundation, have been closed because of flooding and will not re-open before next week. The hotel where visiting judges were to stay was flooded and guests had to be booked elsewhere, foundation executive director Harold Augenbraum said Monday. But Cipriani Wall Street, where the ceremony is to be held, did not sustain major damage.
Music was again flowing by Saturday night on the Bowery, where the New York native band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion kicked things off at the Bowery Ballroom with a concert that donated a portion of sales to the Red Cross and hurricane relief.
“The Blues Explosion has lived in downtown Manhattan for many years and it means a lot to us to be among the first bands playing after the storm,” Spencer said in a statement on the band’s website.
The band added that they were “coming to bring their healing power to downtown Manhattan.”
“Saturday Night Live,” too, resumed with host Louis C.K. In a message to fans Saturday, C.K. said there were considerable challenges in prepping the show during such a week.
“There are kids in the studio every day because members of the crew and staff had to bring them to work,” he wrote. “Many people are sharing lodging. Everyone is tired. But there’s this feeling here that we’ve got to put on a great show. I’m sure it feels like that here every week. But wow.”