TOPICS > World

Economic Shock

September 27, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


BETTY ANN BOWSER: The producers and cast of “Rent” had it made– an award-winning hit musical, full houses every night, a secure financial future… Then came the morning of September 11.

OWEN JOHNSTON II, Actor, “Rent:” When I saw the towers falling, i had no idea the ramifications it meant for the economy, for Broadway, for everything that we do here. I had no idea that i was watching my career potentially just falling with them.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Now the theater is half-full, and producer Kevin McCollum is worried.

KEVIN McCOLLUM, Producer, “Rent:” Last week we looked at the possibility of closing because of the unknown. A reporter asked me, well, you know, “should you lose money?” And I said, “absolutely, I’m prepared to lose lots of money, but you need to tell me how many weeks.” Because if I lose $200 a week for four weeks, that’s different that losing $100 a week for eight weeks.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Let’s clarify. We’re talking about thousands here.

KEVIN McCOLLUM: Thousands, yes.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Five Broadway shows have closed since the World Trade Center attacks, and there is a very real possibility that more curtains may come down.

JED BERNSTEIN, President, League of American Theatres and Producers: Shows lost between three and five million in the performances that were missed last week, and going forward– at least we think for the next month– the bigger musicals are going to be looking at $200,000 to $300,000 a week in losses, so that’s a million dollars a show.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: But it isn’t just Broadway. New York City’s $25 billion a year tourist industry is also in trouble.

SPOKESPERSON: And that will be on your Diner’s Club?

MAN: Yes.

SPOKESPERSON: Have you had a good stay with us?

MAN: Yeah.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Hotels are losing between $6 million and $10 million a day. This normally busy midtown Hilton has closed off entire floors and laid off a third of the staff– maids, bellmen, and maintenance workers. John Tisch’s company owns two properties in New York, and like almost everybody in the business, he’s had to lay off employees, too.

JOHN TISCH, Chairman and CEO, Loews Hotels: Our industry in New York through our local six– our trade council– employs about 25,000 people. Sadly, there have been 4,000 layoffs so far. We are working together with our union to try to lessen the impact of the economic dislocation. Many of the companies that were affected directly are extending employee benefits.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: New York City restaurants are losing $20 million a day. At Tavern on the Green, a New York City landmark with reservations usually booked weeks in advance, business is off almost 20%. So far, a few kitchen workers have been laid off. Alan Kurtz is the general manager.

ALAN KURTZ, Manager, Tavern on the Green: My date, really, that i’m looking at is Columbus Day. That’s my mental date where if things don’t improve by Columbus Day, i am going to have to make some serious cutbacks.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: It’s the low wage earners who’re being hurt the most– the dishwashers, the waiters, the busboys– so those who still have their jobs are obviously concerned.

DARREN WRIGHT, Waiter: I am a new employee and we are the first to be laid off. I mainly work a lot of lunches. Lunches are anywhere between $70 and $100.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: And what is it like now?

DARREN WRIGHT: Well, it’s, like, turning out that you’d be lucky if you get five, four tables. It’s pretty devastating.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Effects of the slowdown reach far out beyond hotels and restaurants. Cab drivers say they’re barely making ends meet. This cabbie used to make $150 a day; now he takes home $50.

RONY MANOLY, Cab Driver: We are the ones really who are being hurt by those situations.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Can you survive on $50 a day?

RONY MANOLY: Definitely not, because you know, about 40%, 50% of our business was taken away by this whole terror attack. ( Horn honks )

BETTY ANN BOWSER: The carriage drivers, who normally give four to five rides a day at this time of the year, sit idle near Central Park, and hotel owner Tisch, who also wears another hat as chairman of the Travel Business Roundtable, a national tourism organization, says the country’s second largest service industry is hurting everywhere.

TISCH: When you look at the rental cars that are not being rented, when you look at the meals that are not being consumed at restaurants, when you think about the individuals that are not going to the theme parks, when you think about all the conventions that have been cancelled to date… and the ripple effect will just be enormous throughout the country. A sad statistic may be that a million hotel workers could be laid off in the coming weeks if we don’t turn this industry around.

( Singing )

BETTY ANN BOWSER: Actors and theater staff of the five longest- running shows on broadway have taken a 25% pay cut for the next four weeks in hopes it will ease the financial hardship, but it may not be enough, and actor Owen Johnston knows all too well what that would mean.

OWEN JOHNSTON II: I have a family, you know, and New York is not a friendly place to be when you’re an unemployed actor. And it’s scary because this is supposed to be a secure job for a long time.

BETTY ANN BOWSER: And– irony of ironies– it was also supposed to pay the rent.