Broadway smash ‘Hamilton’ getting $30M in COVID relief after grossing more than $650M at box office

“Hamilton,” the biggest Broadway show in decades and which has grossed more than $650 million in its New York venue alone since opening in 2015, is now set to receive tens of millions in taxpayer dollars under a COVID-19 financial relief program.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the show, which has been seen by some 2.6 million people in five separate locations, has already qualified for $30 million in relief funds under a program called the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. The production could eventually receive another $20 million.

The Times explained that before the pandemic hit, “Hamilton” was playing in “five separately incorporated productions” in the U.S., one on Broadway and four more that were on tour. Under the rules of the program, “each was eligible for $10 million to help make up for lost revenue.”

“The practice of separately incorporating touring productions is standard in the commercial theater business, and other shows similarly applied for $10 million in assistance for each production running before the pandemic,” the Times continued. “But ‘Hamilton’ stands to get the most money because it had the most touring productions.”

The show has been approved for $10 million in relief for its Broadway production and two of its touring productions, the paper added. Producers have not gotten word yet on the status of the two additional touring productions.

Understanding that a monster Broadway hit receiving tens of millions in COVID relief is likely to generate pushback, lead producer Jeffrey Seller explained to the Times why the show qualified and how the funding will be utilized to bring all of its productions back to fiscal solvency; there is also a London production but that show does not qualify for U.S. COVID relief.

“Remember when Chrysler and GM were about to go bankrupt? In the same way that the federal government came in to bail out auto companies, it’s doing the same thing for all of show business with this legislation,” he told the Times. “It’s returning us to health and it’s protecting the well-being of our employees.”

He pledged that none of the funding would go to any of the producers, him included, or any of the show’s investors. None of the money would go toward royalties for artists, including its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Rather, all of the funding will go towards relaunching all of the closed productions and reimbursing them for COVID-related costs.

“The reopening expenses are varied — a month of rehearsals to get actors, musicians, stagehands and others ready to perform again, as well as longer workshops for new cast members,” the Times reported. “Plus there are the costs of repairing and replacing equipment, transporting people and sets, hiring COVID safety personnel, and marketing the shows.”

Nevertheless, social media users expressed dismay that such a successful show would nevertheless qualify for relief money.

“That’s a lot of Hamiltons,” one wrote, in reference to Alexander Hamilton, whose portrait adorns the $10 bill.

“Because I’m sure there aren’t needier people that taxpayer money could be spent on instead,” said user AdamInHTown.

“Defund the feds,” said another user.

“Capitalism is dead in the United States,” another wrote.

Added another: “So this is where my taxes are going.”

Sellers, however, said the funding would come in handy.

“‘Hamilton’ has spent many millions of dollars during a time in which it was earning no income,” Seller told the Times. “Our goal is for ‘Hamilton’ to be in the same financial position it was in when we suspended operations on March 12, 2020.”

Jon Dougherty

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