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Legislation seeks to lure Broadway shows to Hub

A bill being introduced in the State Legislature could bring Broadway bound shows to Boston’s Theatre District. PHOTO BY KENSHIN OKUBO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

A bill being introduced in the State Legislature could bring Broadway bound shows to Boston’s Theatre District. PHOTO BY KENSHIN OKUBO/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The pre-Broadway business could be headed to Boston thanks to a bill recently introduced to the Massachusetts Legislature.

The bill is set to establish a tax credit program for pre-Broadway shows. Unlike when touring productions visit cities, which last between two and three weeks, pre-Broadway shows need to be in a theater for 10 weeks before moving to Broadway in New York for the duration of their run.

Live theater companies that do business with a Massachusetts-based theater venue could be eligible to receive a tax credit to support the expansion of pre-Broadway and Broadway tour launches in the Commonwealth, according to the text of the bill, filed Jan. 17.

Up to $3 million could be granted to productions showing in Massachusetts before opening in New York.

“My hope is to set a foundation to help stimulate the once-thriving business here at the Commonwealth and once the foundation is set, the tax credit can be removed and we can sustain these pre-Broadway opportunities for decades to come,” said Mass. Rep. Paul McMurtry, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Shows have been going to neighboring states such as Connecticut, which has a tax credit, McMurtry said.

“Moving Boston back to its former status as a Broadway tryout town might bring some excitement back to the theater district, jobs for industry professionals and increased revenue for the City of Boston,” said Judy Braha, a theater professor at Boston University.

There are no vocal opponents to the bill in legislation at this time, but when it undergoes a day of hearings in the House and Senate, the public can voice concerns to government officials.

The tax credit will undergo voting in the next 20 months, McMurtry said.

Officials at Boston University familiar with Boston’s theater economy panned the proposal.

“If there are 20 shows that would come anyway, and only one extra show you get because of the tax, you’re giving a credit to 21 shows to only get one extra,” said Barton Lipman, department chair of economics at BU.

“There’s a real issue about whether there is sufficient audience for a pre-Broadway sufficiently long run. It seems more valuable to create more work than to subsidize new material,” said Sidney Friedman, a BU theater professor.

However, Braha said adding pre-Broadway runs would add to Boston’s cultural atmosphere.

“Art begets art,” she said. “The more going on in the cultural sphere, the better it is for the people of Boston.”

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