As we mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic lockdown, tens of thousands of Long Islanders have now gotten the coronavirus vaccine, while many more wait their turn. Also in desperate need of a shot in the arm is our local entertainment industry, which is finally beginning to show signs of life after a dormant year.
Movie houses, performing arts centers, concert venues and theaters have been given a green light — make that a yellow light — to open at limited capacity. What that means for this spring and summer's entertainment seasons is still anyone's guess, although a rough outline of what's ahead is beginning to take shape as shown by the answers to the 15 questions that follow.
WILL THERE BE JONES BEACH CONCERTS THIS SUMMER?
Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater has 17 concerts on this summer’s roster rescheduled from 2020, which includes Dave Matthews Band (July 7), Backstreet Boys (July 9), James Taylor (July 10), Steely Dan/Steve Winwood (July 11), Chicago (July 14), The Black Crowes (July 17), Rod Stewart/Cheap Trick (July 18), Megadeth/Lamb of God (July 21), KIDZ BOP Live (July 24), Matchbox Twenty (July 25), Disturbed/Staind/Bad Wolves (July 29), the Doobie Brothers (Aug. 5), Jimmy Buffett (Aug. 10), Hall & Oates/Squeeze (Aug. 11), Santana/Earth Wind & Fire (Aug. 14), Thomas Rhett (Aug. 26) and Alanis Morissette/Garbage/Liz Phair (Aug. 29). Many are wondering if these shows are happening.
Live Nation issued the following statement to Newsday: "It’s encouraging to be closer to reconnecting artists and fans at concerts. While events will require regular capacity to really function, we are grateful for the ongoing partnership of many of New York’s elected officials, including Gov. Cuomo, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Nassau County’s own Rep. Kathleen Rice, and are looking forward to working together on a plan to get to shows with regular capacity as soon as we can."
Music Business Worldwide reported that Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino recently said on Live Nation’s Q4 2020 earnings call, "[We] have not, to date, done a lot of work in the 0% to 50% capacity business. We don’t see that as a viable model to ramp back up [considering the] fixed cost."
According to MBW, Rapino added, "a clear outline to a 75% to 100%" capacity for outdoor shows was "within sight."
HOW DO BANDS FEEL ABOUT PLAYING JONES BEACH?
One of the bands scheduled to perform at Jones Beach is the Black Crowes who have reunited and are set to play on July 17.
Guitarist Rich Robinson told Newsday, "There are certain protocols that they [Live Nation] are talking about setting up to make everyone feel comfortable and safe to go to shows. I’m sure they’ll be posting those pretty soon. These are unprecedented times but there’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. I think a lot of people are excited to go see live shows and I’m excited to play some music."
The band, which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its debut album, "Shake Your Money Maker," starts its outdoor amphitheater tour in Tampa, Florida, on June 25, making their way to Long Island 22 days later.
"Right now it seems good. Everyone seems like they are moving forward. I feel really confident about it," says Robinson, 51. "Sheds are cool because they are outside. People can space themselves, it’s not an indoor thing. You are not necessarily breathing anyone’s air."
SO BESIDES JONES BEACH, WHAT OTHER OUTDOOR SHOWS ARE BEING PLANNED?
You can expect more COVID-compliant drive-in concerts, plus other innovative outdoor shows:
Like in 2020, Adventureland in East Farmingdale will continue holding drive-in concerts this spring.
April will feature Michael DelGuidice on April 1, "Spring Into Freestyle!" with TKA, Cynthia, Rob Base and Soave on April 10, Almost Queen on April 17 and Zac Brown Tribute Band on April 24.
INFO 631-694-6868, adventureland.us
LANDMARK ON MAIN STREET
Starting April 24, the Port Washington venue is bringing back its outdoor concert series in the parking lot. "We can accommodate approximately 100 people socially distanced and carefully monitored," says executive director Laura Mogul. "There will be chalk circles marked out and people bring their lawn chairs. Everyone must wear a mask and the access is controlled." This year’s roster is currently being compiled. Check the website for updates.
INFO 516-767-6444, landmarkonmainstreet.org
In 2020, Patchogue Theatre had great success with "Music Under the Marquee" and there are plans to continue the outdoor series.
"We hope to get a bigger footprint this year," says theatre director Michele Rizzo-Berg. "Our focus will be on new locally centered artists. I’d like to maybe do a comedy one too."
The acts and dates will be announced once the village decides on its street closures for the season.
INFO 631-207-1313, patchoguetheatre.org
Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post in Brookville is making a contingency plan for the summer. The venue hopes to rent an outdoor stage and hold a concert series on the lawn in the arts quad across from Castagna Plaza.
"We will create 6-foot pods with space around them and sell tickets by the pod, which holds four people," says executive director William Biddle. "There will be appropriate social distanced aisle space and the VIP sections will provide chairs."
A listing of dates will be forthcoming once state guidelines are put in place for the summer.
INFO 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org
WESTHAMPTON BEACH PAC
Socially distant concerts will be happening on the Great Lawn across the street from the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center this summer. Currently, two shows have been booked: Beachstock with rock band Square Feeet on Aug. 13 and Max Weinberg’s Jukebox on Aug. 14.
The venue is tentatively booking acts for the fall including Los Lobos, War, Steve Tyrell, Darlene Love and Keb’ Mo’.
INFO 631-288-1500, whbpac.org
ARE SHOWS STILL HAPPENING INDOORS?
Yes — many venues are continuing to book shows:
KJ FARRELL’S BAR & GRILL
Live music is happening Wednesday through Sunday at 50% occupancy at the Bellmore bar.
"People have to order food and drink at their table," says owner Kevin Sheehan. "There’s no table hopping. You have to stay in your seat and enjoy the music."
Upcoming shows include FiveStone on March 19, The Mystic on March 20, Decadia on March 26, Streetfighter (Rolling Stones tribute) on March 27 and the Great South Band on April 23.
INFO 516-804-9925, kjfarrells.com
MULCAHY’S PUB AND CONCERT HALL
The Wantagh venue has been holding dinners with reduced music up on the stage consisting of acoustic duos and trios. Guests must make a reservation for a table (holding up to 10 people) which are separated 10-12 feet apart and then dine while enjoying the live music from 7-9 p.m.
Check out the ‘90s Band trio (March 19 at 6 p.m.), All the Blink Things trio (March 20 at 6 p.m.), Radio Bingo Brunch with DJs@work (March 27 at noon) and Warped Tour trio (March 27 at 6 p.m.).
INFO 516-783-7500, muls.com
Live music is available Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and even on Sundays for brunch at this Amityville club.
"We do a drag queen brunch on the third Sunday of the month, which is something unique and people love it," says owner Kevin Sheehan. "Four drag queens lip sync to tracks and perform around the room. It’s extremely entertaining."
Here’s who is coming up: 2U (U2 tribute) Irish brunch on March 14, Last Exit (Pearl Jam tribute) on March 19, Tiger Rose (Grateful Dead tribute) on March 17, 24 and 31, Streetfighter (Rolling Stones tribute) on March 20, drag queen brunch on March 21, '70s Rock Parade on March 26, Cover Girl on March 27 and the Damn Good Time Band on April 17.
INFO 631-238-1820, thewarehouseli.com
WHICH VENUES WILL REMAIN DARK?
Certain venues are in a holding pattern until live shows open up again. They include The Paramount in Huntington, The Space at Westbury, Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, My Father’s Place in Roslyn, YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore and NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Although some of their websites show dates for rescheduled shows held over from 2020, when they happen remains in question due to state regulations.
WILL VIRTUAL SHOWS CONTINUE?
Absolutely and they're getting more varied and sophisticated:
ADELPHI UNIVERSITY PAC
Adelphi University in Garden City is doing more than educating, it’s entertaining as well. A virtual Broadway-themed concert series, "Live from Adelphi" is a three-camera shoot with live accompaniment from the stage at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center.
"Everyone has been performing Zoom concerts in their bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms," says producer Scott Coulter. "We wanted to give people a chance to see these artists in their natural habitat — a theater with full lighting, sound and live musicians."
Upcoming streams include: T. Oliver Reid — "Distingué: A Tribute to Bobby Short" on March 21-24, Joe Iconis & Family on April 11-14 and "Rock ’n Radio: Music’s Biggest Hits" by a cast of Broadway vocalists on May 2-5.
INFO $20 a ticket, Adelphi.edu/LiveFromAdelphi
Although the Patchogue venue may not be open to the public, inside the cameras are rolling. Bands are regularly livestreaming concerts and selling tickets on boxcast.tv
"The artists promote the shows heavily to their fan base who buys tickets. Each performance is a 60 or 90-minute set with a three-camera shoot," says co-owner Ryan Welsch. "The streams stay up indefinitely, this isn’t a one and done. We keep it up for people to enjoy."
INFO $10 a ticket, 631-730-8992, facebook.com/89northmusic
LANDMARK ON MAIN STREET
Each month throughout the pandemic, this theater in Port Washington has been presenting various virtual concerts featuring different styles of music.
Spring virtual shows include Gaelic Storm on March 17 ($20), Finnish Kantele with Kardemimmit on March 18 (free), Taj Mahal on March 20 and 27 ($25), Vintage Bliss — "Feeling Groovy: Music from the 60’s & 70’s" on March 24 (free) and Patricia Shih — "Appleseeds: The Life, Times & Music of Pete Seeger" on April 7 (free).
INFO Prices vary, 516-767-6444, landmarkonmainstreet.org
Although the stage is dark, Patchogue Theatre has been presenting several virtual concerts for people to enjoy in their homes.
"The virtual shows have been successful. We see almost daily ticket sales come in," says theater director Michele Rizzo-Berg. "A streaming system is being installed. Once that’s in place and we are able to comply with the multimedia guidelines, the plan is to bring artists in to film and stream out live."
Irish quartet We Banjo 3’s virtual show ($25) is currently available until March 21, with more on the way.
INFO Prices vary, 631-207-1313, patchoguetheatre.org
A special virtual concert, "Reflections of ‘Who’s Next,’ " celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Who’s landmark album and the band’s greatest hits, was shot at Tilles Center at LIU Post in Brookville and will be made available to stream nationally on April 30, May 1 and 2.
The virtual show, produced by The Rock Project, features Long Island rock group Wonderous Stories with a three-piece horn section plus four professional Broadway singers: Lana Gordon, Michael Wartella, Constantine Maroulis and Justin Matthew Sargent.
INFO $20 a ticket, 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org —DAVID J. CRIBLEZ
BROADWAY IS SET TO RESUME BUSINESS ON MAY 30, BUT WHEN WILL THEATERS ACTUALLY REOPEN?
Refunds will be available starting May 30 with ticket sales resuming on June 1, but it’s unlikely that theaters will begin performances until fall at the earliest based on input the Broadway League has gotten from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser.
A fall opening will also be predicated on theater capacity limits. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo earlier this month announced that theaters could reopen at 33% percent capacity, but that number is not economically feasible for Broadway.
"Broadway needs 75 to 90% to cover the running costs of the theater," said Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League. "A lot is going to depend on how the vaccine rollout now goes. From Day One, we have said that we would not be comfortable with reopening our theaters until we were confident that the cast, the crew and the audience would be safe."
She added that audiences are likely to see more one-acts without an intermission when Broadway resumes. And they might even see a slight reduction on ticket prices.
"When business is great, prices on some of the tickets tend to go up, and when it’s not so great, they tend to go down," St. Martin said.
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR LIVE THEATER ON LONG ISLAND?
For The Argyle Theater in Babylon and The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, opening at less than 50% capacity can’t work for the large-scale musicals both venues are used to presenting.
"We closed the theater with ‘Cabaret’ as the final show of our second season. It was our opening weekend," said Dylan Perlman, who co-owns Argyle with his father, Mark. "The theater is still set up like a snapshot in time, so we will look to finish off that run of ‘Cabaret.’ "
Both Argyle and Engeman plan to present the same slates of shows they had scheduled for last season, with the exception of "Sister Act," which Engeman canceled March 8.
Manes Studio Theatre of Long Island in Lindenhurst, which is undergoing a $250,000 renovation, is hoping to be back in operation by September, said executive artistic director Chris Rosselli.
He added that BayWay Arts Center in East Islip, which Manes Studio took over in September, is targeting this summer to begin presenting musicals with a live orchestra.
HOW ARE THEATERS GOING TO ADAPT POST-PANDEMIC?
Even though the government is letting theaters reopen, they still haven’t been told how they will need to accommodate audiences and actors.
"There’s going to be a lot of specific requirements from Actors Equity and the Musicians’ union," said Richard Dolce, Engeman’s producing artistic director. "In addition to figuring out how to safely get patrons in and out of the theater, we’re also going to have to figure out how to safely have the actors in dressing room and make quick changes and deal with props."
The "Cabaret" opening gave Argyle a taste of what it’s like to present a show with health protocols in place. "Because we had ‘Cabaret’ run that one weekend before the shutdown occurred, we did have a little time to put up our hand sanitizing stations, have employees wear masks and gloves and deal with traffic control."
Even in a best-case scenario, it could still take several months before the theaters can go back to business as usual. "Once we have an idea, we’re going to have to put out a casting notice again," Dolce said. "So it’s going to be at least two months from the time we get the green light to get a show up and ready."
WHAT TYPES OF SHOWS MIGHT WE SEE IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE?
Comedy shows, open mic nights, small concerts, staged readings and other offerings that are not too expensive to mount and can accommodate smaller crowds are likely to be the first offerings at Long Island venues.
As the warmer weather approaches, audiences can look forward to theater al fresco. Manes Studio Theatre is planning three weekends in May of performances at Fireman’s Memorial Park in Lindenhurst, where it presented some children’s theater productions last summer.
"We’re doing ‘On Golden Pond,’ ‘Picnic’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ We’re going to have a full stage there with a brand-new lighting system and a brand-new sound system," said Chris Rosselli, executive director of the Lindenhurst-based theater. Audiences will be required to wear a mask and social-distancing protocols will be enforced. Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director of Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, is in early talks with the village of Port Jefferson about doing some outdoor shows as well.
The Gateway in Bellport, which offered a successful run of drive-in movies last summer, will present more outdoor movies from April to June.
And at least one group, Quogue-based Hampton Theatre Company, is gearing up for an indoor show. In accordance with the 33% capacity rule, the theater will present A.R. Gurney’s four-person comedy "Sylvia" at Quogue Community Hall from May 20 to June 6.
WILL VIRTUAL SHOWS CONTINUE ONCE THEATERS REOPEN?
Don’t count on it. Theatre Three has presented more than 70 plays in its "Off-Stage/On-Line" series, but don’t expect that number to go into triple digits.
"We will consider doing them as an occasional special event, but the series itself was conceived as an alternative," Sanzel said. "When we reopen, our energy will go 100% into our live productions."
Broadway likewise won’t be livestreaming performances once the curtains go up on theaters, though occasional virtual fundraisers for charitable industry organizations such as The Actors Fund and Broadway Cares could pop up. —DANIEL BUBBEO
WHEN WILL MY LOCAL CINEMA REOPEN?
Long Island has lost a number of movie theaters during the pandemic. Some, like the Malverne Cinema and Art Center, shut their doors temporarily. Others, including Great Neck’s Squire Cinemas, closed permanently.
Many venues aren't yet ready to reopen. Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre, which has been closed since last March, is eyeing a May reopening following a monthslong renovation. "We have an aspirational opening date, but we don’t have a date decided," says the Cinema’s co-director, Dylan Skolnick. "One of the lessons of the pandemic has been, ‘Be careful about making promises about dates.’ Remember when it was all supposed to be just a few weeks?"
Other venues are in a similar holding pattern. The Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center has no firm date for reopening. Port Jefferson’s PJ Cinemas is aiming for later this spring or summer. The Sag Harbor Cinema, which closed after a fire in 2016 and has been undergoing a $5 million renovation, has yet to announce an official reopening date.
WILL WE HAVE A SUMMER MOVIE SEASON?
Signs point to yes. After the pandemic struck and forced cinemas to close, last summer’s blockbusters got pushed to this summer. Release dates have become notoriously unreliable — "F9," the latest entry in the "Fast and the Furious" series, has been postponed three times — but a schedule seems to be falling into place. Among the big titles: Disney-Marvel’s "Black Widow" (May 7) "F9" (June 25), the long-awaited Tom Cruise film "Top Gun: Maverick" (July 2) and Warner-DC’s "The Suicide Squad"(Aug. 6).
Some movies have even been bumped up, notably the horror sequel "A Quiet Place Part II," which was previously scheduled for September but will now open Memorial Day weekend. Sony Pictures’ family film "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" has also been pushed up, by one month, to May 14.
"There’s been some shuffling around," says Joe Masher, president of the National Association of Theater Owners’ New York chapter and COO of Bow Tie Cinemas. "But what’s listed now is a pretty safe bet for what’s coming."
HOW LONG WILL MOVIE THEATERS OPERATE WITH LIMITED CAPACITY?
New York State rules currently restrict movie auditoriums to 25% capacity (with a 50-person maximum). The exhibition industry, however, is pushing to make an exception for auditoriums with reclining seats, which hold fewer people than those with upright seating. NATO wants auditoriums with reclining seats to operate at 50% capacity.
The thinking goes like this: The average auditorium can hold roughly 200 traditional seats, but only about 80 recliner seats, according to Masher. "So at 25% capacity, if you have an older theater, you can fit 50 people. For the same size room with recliners, which naturally have more spacing, you’re only allowed 20 people," he said. "So we are trying to get some clarification on the percentages."
WILL POP-UP DRIVE-INS REMAIN POPULAR?
Drive-ins sprung up all over Long Island last year, and plans for more are already in progress.
The town of North Hempstead, which held drive-in screenings at area parks last spring and summer, is working on another series. The town has already announced an April 10 screening of Disney-Pixar’s "Onward" at North Hempstead Beach Park. The Westfield South Shore Mall in Bay Shore has a number of drive-in screenings lined up for April and May, including "The Croods: A New Age," "Dirty Dancing" and 1984’s "Ghostbusters." Cinema Arts Centre, which held drive-in screenings of "Yellow Submarine" and "Beetlejuice" at the Dix Hills Park Pool last year, is also considering more pop-ups.
"People have rediscovered that it’s kind of a fun way to go to the movies," said Dylan Skolnick, the cinema’s co-director. "Maybe not quite on the level it was last summer, which was drive-in mania, but I would hope they’ll be back." —RAFER GUZMÁN