By JAKE COYLE, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — New York's entertainment industry moved closer to full throttle Monday, as a new week and largely restored downtown power meant something of a return to normalcy for the city's upended cultural landscape.
While Broadway theaters and midtown TV studios were back in business within about two days of Superstorm Sandy, much of downtown New York — its off-Broadway theaters, independent movie theaters, Lower East Side concert halls and Chelsea galleries — only got power back late Saturday.
For the first time, the Office of Film Theatre and Broadcasting began issuing permits on a case-by-case basis for film shoots in exterior locations, meaning the city streets would again be providing background for the two dozen TV series shooting in New York and the dozen-plus movies in production. Permits for location shooting in the city's Zone A — including Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn — were still not being issued.
"We're getting back on track and back into business," said Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. "There was minimal damage to stages last week — a little bit of water damage here and there. But they were able to get back on stages at the end of last week and, as of today and going forward, they will be on exterior locations as well."
Not yet clear was the overall economic impact the storm had on the city's film and TV industries, which last year employed 130,000 people and generated $7.1 billion in revenue, according to the mayor's office. Oliver said an estimate for the cost of impacted film and TV production wasn't yet possible.
The reporting of weekly grosses of Broadway theaters was delayed from Monday until Tuesday because of the storm. Many downtown off-Broadway theaters — which were dark for days longer than Broadway theaters — are offering discounted tickets with the code "SANDY" to lure back audiences.
Uptown, Carnegie Hall was forced to continue to cancel performances. Having been shuttered for a week because of the storm-damaged hanging crane on West 57th Street, which caused the closure of streets in the neighborhood, Carnegie Hall announced that Tuesday's concerts, too, would be postponed while work continued to restore utilities in the building.
For many downtown destinations, losing nearly a week's business was a significant hit. The nonprofit Film Forum, one of the city's most beloved movie art houses, was essentially closed for six days as it waited to get power back.
"That's a big loss of business. For us, that hurts. For any theater, that hurts," said Karen Cooper, president and director of the Film Forum, lamenting not only the loss of box office, but the lesser attention to its currently playing films.
"My assumption is that movies are always open," said Cooper, who only closed for two days following Sept. 11. "They're open on Christmas. They're open on Thanksgiving. They're open 365 days a year. They're a public trust, OK? You can quote me."
Though several productions were delayed, Hollywood was weathering the storm quite well. Though at one point, some 300 movie theaters had been forced to close, most were online by the weekend.
Ticket sales for the weekend box office were brisk, even on the East Coast, where many sought escapism in warm theaters. Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" earned $49 million and Paramount's "Flight," took in $24.9 million — both surpassing expectations.
"If there was a theater that wasn't running, the theater around it was doing almost as much business to completely make up for those that weren't operating," said Dave Hollis, head of distribution for Disney. "It may have taken a little more driving, a little more work, but it seems as though people were willing to make the effort to find the show."
The struggle to work through the storm was difficult for many media outlets, particularly New York Magazine, which had to relocate to a board room in the midtown offices of its parent company, New York Media. Staffers hauled computers from the magazine offices just south of Astor Place so that an improvised newsroom could be set up in order to get this week's issue out on time.