NEW YORK—The New York entertainment industry is fighting to go on with the show after the city was hit by Superstorm Sandy—even if it means performing without an audience.
For the second night in a row, the storm and its aftermath forced David Letterman to tell jokes to a vacant theater (or as he called it, “a big ol’ empty barn”).
Letterman hosting the “Late Show” to an “un-peopled” Ed Sullivan Theater on Tuesday, as he did on Monday, was the oddest sight of the considerable and continuing cultural fallout of the superstorm that left New York institutions like Broadway, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center no more open for business than the city’s damaged subway system.
“The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” canceled tapings for the second day, while the “Late Show,” Jimmy Fallon’s “Late Night” and a traveling out-of-towner, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” went ahead with shows on Tuesday.
When “Late Show” band leader Paul Schafer asked Letterman how they were supposed to approach such an awkward situation, Letterman quickly replied: “Just like every night: We pretend the audience isn’t here.”
When Letterman introduced his first guest, Kate Hudson, the actress didn’t stride out; instead a middle-aged bald man appeared - presumably an employee of the “Late Show” - who bantered with Letterman as if he were Hudson.
The three shows took varied approaches to inviting audiences to brave the difficult transportation prospects. Kimmel, a Brooklyn native, had planned to begin a week of shows in the borough on Monday. He began them a day late on Tuesday - with an audience - at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
“I was born in Bay Ridge. I grew up in Mill Basin, and tonight I have returned to save my people from the storm,” said Kimmel, referring to Brooklyn neighborhoods. “Thank you for ignoring the local authorities to be here tonight.”
Like Letterman, Fallon had hosted his show Monday without an audience, but he happily welcomed audience members back on Tuesday.
“First off, thanks to our great audience for making it out to the show tonight,” Fallon began his monologue Tuesday. “I’m so glad you’re here, because last night’s audience was the worst.”
As the city took account of the damage wrought by the storm, the aftermath of Sandy continued to cause the cancellations of film premieres, film and TV production and concerts.
The Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert scheduled for Tuesday night at the Rochester Blue Cross Arena in upstate New York was postponed until Wednesday because of flight cancellations for the band and ticket holders.
The city revoked film permits for a second day Tuesday. The sets of “Smash,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “30 Rock,” “Deception” and “Do No Harm” were closed, NBC said, and “SVU” won’t tape Wednesday. Other series temporarily knocked out of production included “666 Park,” “Gossip Girl” and “Person of Interest.”
Production was also called off for daytime shows “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” “Katie,” “The View” and “The Chew.” ABC said work on all the programs would resume Wednesday.
Films forced to stop shooting include Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” and Akiva Goldsman’s “Winter’s Tale,” and the Tuesday premiere of Joe Wright’s Tolstoy adaptation “Anna Karenina” was canceled.
All 40 Broadway theaters were closed, and while most hoped to open Wednesday, both “The Lion King” and “Mary Poppins” announced that Wednesday’s shows would also be canceled.
The thriving downtown off-Broadway community was still assessing the damage and likely facing a longer time off. The superstorm forced the well-respected Vineyard Theatre in Union Square to cancel performances of its world-premiere production of “Checkers,” which was to open Wednesday. And the staff of the SoHo Rep, just a few blocks south of Canal Street, was dealing with no power and some flooding in the basement on a day that was supposed to be the first technical rehearsal of a play about African genocide by Jackie Sibblies Drury.
Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center canceled performances and the Metropolitan Opera and Radio City Music Hall were also closed. The 57th Street entrance to Carnegie Hall - which also canceled Wednesday concerts - was blocked by a street closure because of a dangling crane. The Metropolitan Opera said Tuesday that it planned to go ahead with its Wednesday evening performance of Thomas Ades’ “The Tempest.”
The Apollo Theater was forced to postpone its signature show, the Amateur Night finale, from Wednesday night to Nov. 14. Apollo president and CEO Jonelle Procope said finalists weren’t able to travel to the event.
The financial hit for touring musicians will depend in part on how long it takes transit and other infrastructure to return to normal, said Gary Bongiovanni of Pollstar, the trade publication that tracks the concert industry. Atlantic City, where a lot of acts perform, was particularly hard hit. New York concert cancellations included those for Journey at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a Beacon Theater benefit concert for marriage equality that was to feature Rufus Wainwright, the National and They Might Be Giants.
The storm also jolted one of the gaming industry’s biggest releases of the year. GameStop stores canceled planned midnight launches of the highly anticipated Ubisoft video game “Assassin’s Creed III” throughout the Northeast, but Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter doesn’t anticipate the storm will derail the interactive medium at the beginning of its busiest sales season.
“That won’t impact overall game sales,” Pachter said. “The people who stayed home last night will buy it tomorrow.”
Most movie theaters on the East Coast in the path of the storm have been closed since Sunday night, and many continued to be shuttered Tuesday.
Losing several days of box office for such a large area of the country would likely mean millions to Hollywood, though early weekdays are lesser movie-going days and current new releases—“Cloud Atlas,” “Silent Hill: Revelation 3-D,” “Fun Size”—were already attracting little interest.
Debuting this weekend is the animated Disney comedy “Wreck-It Ralph,” the Paramount thriller “Flight” and the martial-arts “The Man with the Iron Fists.”
“I think ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is going to have a huge opening, but if it’s less than expected, I think a lot of people are going to lay that on the doorstep of the hurricane,” said Hollywood.com box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. At the same time, he added: “A film like ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ could be the antidote to the hurricane for families looking for an escape. It’s a very escapist, fun movie. We’ll have to take a wait-and-see attitude.”