Virus darkens stages, silences live music, empties attractions across the U.S.
Customers are turned away from a ticket booth in Times Square, Thursday, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

TKTS in New York City
People thinking about still going to a show are losing that option.

The stage at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle is quiet. There is no music coming from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the members of Pearl Jam won’t tour. There is no one to admire the treasures at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The ongoing fears surrounding the coronavirus have shuttered places where Americans — and foreign visitors — have long gathered to escape the world and also to engage with it. Almost everything that draws crowds has now sent them all away.

Wisconsin resident Ellen Moodie, 58, found herself in New York, twice rejected. She came for the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, but that was canceled. So she tried to catch a Broadway show, but those too were canceled. She admitted to being a little disappointed.

“We would love to see a show but understand the situation,” she said.

The list of venues where Americans can no longer find entertainment or diversion continues to climb — so far scrapped or shuttered are everything from Coachella to Carnegie Hall, Major League Baseball, Walt Disney World, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Disneyland plans to shut its gates Saturday for the rest of the month. After Sunday, Walt Disney World will also close to guests through the end of March. And Disney is suspending any new cruise ship departures starting Saturday.

Beginning Saturday, the Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles will close until at least March 28. Universal Orlando plans to shutter for the rest of the month starting Monday.

Yet SeaWorld Orlando remains open, for the moment.

One event still going on: Bike Week, in Daytona Beach.

Elsewhere, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame postponed its annual induction ceremony, scheduled for May 2 in Cleveland. It was to have been televised live for the first time by HBO. Posthumous inductees Whitney Houston and the Notorious B.I.G. were to be honored, along with Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Nails and T. Rex. Canada’s top music awards show, the June Awards, was also called off as a precaution.

On Thursday, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Show With James Corden” joined other late-night talk shows in announcing they will tape without audiences. That followed similar decisions by CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” NBC’s “Tonight Show” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

CBS also said production on the next season of “Survivor” was being postponed. “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune” have also halted tapings with audiences.

Numerous concert tours, including by Pearl Jam, The Who, Madonna, Stormzy, and Miley Cyrus have been canceled or postponed.

Hollywood still planned to usher several new movies into theaters beginning Thursday evening. North America’s largest chains, AMC and Regal, did not respond to emails. Cinemas have already been closed in China, India, Italy, Poland, Greece and other countries.

But they will soon run out of movies to play. Postponements have erased much of the upcoming movie release calendar.

The Walt Disney Co. wiped out its upcoming slate, including “Mulan,” “New Mutants” and “Antlers.” Universal Pictures said the “Fast and Furious” movie titled “F9” would not open May 22 as planned but in April next year. John Krasinski, writer and director of “A Quiet Place 2,” announced that his film from Paramount Pictures would not open next week as planned but be rescheduled to for another date.

Bob and Diane Erickson, of Cambridge, Minnesota, were taking no chances Thursday, hitting all of Nashville’s major tourist destinations that were unaffected thus far, including The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium.

“We’re just kind of watching it,” said Bob Erickson. “And frankly, it’s going to get bigger.”

The closures of museums and theaters and concerts come even as families find their kids locked out of school with nothing to do and arts institutions worry about keeping the lights on without ticket sales.

“It’s the people that are down here, trying to earn that dollar that it’s going to affect the most,” said Mike Beliles, of Wilmington, North Carolina, who was visiting Nashville. “It’s the people who are trying to make ends meet and they aren’t able to work.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Apprehension of the virus has claimed an astonishingly varied list of events stretching beyond the traditional arts, from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to the New York International Auto Show. Big events in big venues like the NBA season and NCAA basketball tournaments were felled by coronavirus, but smaller and less raucous get-togethers were also abandoned, too.

Around the country, bookstore appearances by James McBride, Louise Erdrich and many others were postponed or canceled during what is usually one of publishing’s busiest seasons. The prizewinning author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang called off the tour for his graphic novel “Dragon Hoops.”

The Brooklyn Public Library in New York suspended or postponed all public programs until at least the end of the month. Jakab Orsós, the vice president of arts and culture, called the move “only responsible action we could take.” He said the virus is making those in the world of culture humble.

“It’s a bitter lesson, that we are not the rulers of the universe. We got very comfortable thinking we could overcome everything. Sometimes we have to learn that there are stronger powers. It’s larger than culture, it’s universal,” he said. “We have to change course. Whatever that is — we have to learn this message. This is a huge and important lesson, especially in the Western world.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday banned gatherings of 500 or more in the city, effectively forcing the hand of Broadway producers who had previously said that Broadway would be “open for business” unless advised not to by the government. Shows are now slated to resume the week of April 13.

Would-be theater attendees were turned away in the theater district, some shaking their heads in disbelief.

“I had been hoping to catch one but it’s all canceled,” said Quinn Heath, 24, who was visiting from Boston.

Closing all Broadway theaters for a month is unprecedented, said Laurence Maslon, an arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. “Nothing comes close to this amount of time ever.”

Other theaters far from Broadway have closed their doors, including the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Southern California, which canceled or postponed all productions and programs through March 31. Coronavirus has altered the run of “Guys and Dolls” at the Ford’s Theatre in the nation’s capital.

The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle closed the doors on “Sister Act,” citing the state’s mandated cancellation of public gatherings and is now asking for donations to recover $1 million in losses. The 1,600-seat Curran Theater in San Francisco decided to scrap performances of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Actors’ Equity Association, which represents more than 51,000 actors and stage managers nationwide, called the decision to shutter Broadway “important” and urged lawmakers to come to the aid of workers in the arts.

“Today’s decision means tremendous uncertainty for thousands who work in the arts, including the prospect of lost income, health insurance, and retirement savings,” the group said. “For every middle-class actor you see onstage, there are dozens of other workers behind the scenes and in an administrative capacity.”

The virus’s arrival came just as Americans shake off the winter blues and plan spring events — concerts, games and shows. But no more.

“This is one of the hearts of the season where we have really a lot going on,” said New York Philharmonic president Deborah Borda. “It is going to be an enormous financial challenge involving millions of dollars for all of these institutions.”

Associated Press


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