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(Article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_theatre)
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 39 large professional theaters with 500 seats or more located in the Theatre District, New York (plus one theatre in Lincoln Center) in Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
The Broadway theatre district is a popular tourist attraction in New York City. According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold approximately $937 million worth of tickets in the 2007-08 season.
Although there are now more exceptions than there once were, generally shows with open-ended runs operate on the same schedule, with evening performances Tuesday through Saturday with an 8 p.m. "curtain" and afternoon "matinée" performances on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; typically at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays, making a standard eight performance week. On this schedule, shows do not play on Monday, and the shows and theatres are said to be "dark" on that day. Actors and crew in these shows tend to regard Sunday evening through Tuesday evening as their "weekend". The Tony Award presentation ceremony is usually held on a Sunday evening in June to fit into this schedule.
In recent years, many shows have moved their Tuesday show time an hour earlier to 7 p.m. The rationale for the move was that fewer tourists took in shows midweek, so the Tuesday crowd in particular depends on local audience members. The earlier curtain therefore allows suburban patrons time after a show to get home by a reasonable hour. Some shows, especially those produced by Disney, change their performance schedules fairly frequently, depending on the season, in order to maximize access to their targeted audience.
Most Broadway shows are commercial productions intended to make a profit for the producers and investors ("backers" or "angels"), and therefore have open-ended runs, meaning that the length of their presentation is not set beforehand, but depends on critical response, word of mouth, and the effectiveness of the show's advertising, all of which determine ticket sales. Shows do not necessarily have to make a profit immediately. If they are making their "nut" (weekly operating expenses), or are losing money at a rate which the producers consider acceptable, they may continue to run in the expectation that, eventually, they will pay back their initial costs and become profitable. In some borderline situations, producers may ask that royalties be temporarily reduced or waived, or even that performers — with the permission of their unions — take reduced salaries, in order to prevent a show from closing. Theatre owners, who are not generally profit participants in most productions, may waive or reduce rents, or even lend a show money in order to keep it running. (In one case, a theatre owner lent a floundering show money to stay open, even though the production had to move to another owner's theatre because of a previous booking at the original house.)
Some Broadway shows are produced by non-commercial organizations as part of a regular subscription season—Lincoln Center Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club are the three non-profit theatre companies that currently have permanent Broadway venues. Some other productions are produced on Broadway with "limited engagement runs" for a number of reasons, including financial issues, prior engagements of the performers or temporary availability of a theatre between the end of one production and the beginning of another. However, some shows with planned limited engagement runs may, after critical acclaim or box office success, extend their engagements or convert to open-ended runs. This was the case with 2007's August: Osage County.
Historically, musicals on Broadway tend to have longer runs than do "straight" (i.e. non-musical) plays. On January 9, 2006, The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre became the longest running Broadway musical, with 7,486 performances, overtaking Cats.
Off-Broadway and Tours
The classification of theatres is governed by language in Actors' Equity Association contracts. To be eligible for a Tony, a production must be in a house with 500 seats or more and in the Theatre District, which criteria define Broadway theatre. Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows often provide a more experimental, challenging and intimate performance than is possible in the larger Broadway theatres. Some Broadway shows, however, such as the musicals Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, Spring Awakening, title of show, Rent, Avenue Q, and In the Heights, began their runs Off-Broadway and later transferred onto Broadway, seeking to replicate their intimate experience in a larger theatre.
After (or even during) successful runs in Broadway theatres, producers often remount their productions with a new cast and crew for the Broadway national tour, which travels to theaters in major cities across the country—the bigger and more successful shows may have several of these touring companies out at a time, some of them "sitting down" in other cities for their own long runs. Smaller cities are eventually serviced by "bus and truck" tours, so-called because the cast generally travels by bus (instead of by air) and the sets and equipment by truck. Tours of this type, which frequently feature a reduced physical production to accommodate smaller venues and tighter schedules, often play "split weeks" (half a week in one town and the second half in another) or "one-nighters", whereas the larger tours will generally play for one or two weeks per city at a minimum. The Touring Broadway Awards, presented by The Broadway League, honor excellence in touring Broadway.