New York City, once a flourishing fountain of opportunities in the arts, music, and theater, has been transformed into a cultural ghost town by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from the state comptroller’s office.
Despite the gradual reopening of the city’s museums, movie theaters, concert halls, and sports stadiums, the entertainment and leisure sector remains dramatically crippled as last year’s shutdowns cost 66% of its total jobs. In 2019, the sector employed 93,500 people and generated $7.4 billion in wages.
Business has historically been boosted by New York’s booming tourism industry, which hosted nearly 67 million visitors per year with $70 billion to spend on recreational activities such as Broadway shows, Yankees games, and Coney Island jaunts. But in March 2020, the sector was forced to close up as the pandemic grounded travel and stay-at-home orders proliferated.
According to the report, 59% of arts and entertainment companies and 63% of sports and recreation venues were shuttered, and the sector has yet to recover: It’s the only major employment category in New York that’s still below half of its pre-pandemic level. While parks and zoos have cautiously reopened, iconic establishments such as the Metropolitan Opera remain streaming-only, and Broadway, a $1.8 billion business in 2019, is still dark indefinitely.
Although 62% of the sector’s firms received Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government, it will take more than that to restore New York’s standing as a celebrated and vibrant hub of culture.
“This sector is likely to face the hardest road to recovery and even more creative solutions will be needed,” read the report.