Monday, November 12, 2007
No end in sight as Broadway strike enters third day

16 hours ago

NEW YORK (AFP) — A strike by Broadway stagehands entered its third day Monday with apparently no end in sight, partially paralyzing one of New York's flourishing industries and costing millions in lost revenue.

Both sides seemed to have toughened their positions Monday, with producers saying stagehands enjoyed "featherbedding" in their contracts and unions saying there would be no new talks until producers stopped using such terms.

"The stagehands are striking to seek to preserve their right to get paid when there is nothing for them to do," the producers' league said, arguing that they wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because of contract rules.

According to The League of American Theatres and Producers, the average stagehand makes 150,000 dollars a year in pay and benefits, which the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees says is exaggerated.

"Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now," the stagehands' union countered.

The strike, which started Saturday without notice, brought the curtain down at 27 Broadway theaters, with disappointed ticket holders arriving at theaters to find the doors closed and picket lines manned set up outside.

However, for shows such as hit musical "Mary Poppins," which are not run by members of the The League of American Theatres and Producers and therefore not hit be the strike, the stoppage was helping ensure sell-out shows.

Off-Broadway productions were also reportedly experiencing a mini-boom thanks to the strike, with many visitors from across the United States and around the world still anxious to see some New York theater during their visit.

Tickets to some of the top Broadway shows can command prices of more than 500 dollars, and last year 1.3 million tickets were sold to foreign tourists.

And despite ticket prices increasing sharply in recent years, the number of theatergoers has continued to mount, jumping 2.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while box office receipts have increased 8.9 percent over the same period.

According to the producers' league, Broadway pumps five billion dollars into the New York economy a year and provides the equivalent of 45,000 jobs.

The industrial action is the third stoppage on Broadway in 30 years. The last, a strike by musicians in 2003, lasted four days at an estimated cost to theater producers of several million dollars.

The producers' league is reported to have set aside 20 million dollars in an emergency fund in anticipation of the strike, while the union was said to have a contingency fund of four million dollars of its own.

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