An off-Broadway theatre is any professional theatre venue in Manhattan in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than off-off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer than 100.
An "off-Broadway production" is a production of a play, musical, or revue that appears in such a venue and adheres to related trade union and other contracts. Some shows that premiere off-Broadway are subsequently produced on Broadway.
Originally referring to the location of a venue and its productions on a street intersecting Broadway in Manhattan's Theater District, the hub of the theatre industry in New York, the term later became defined by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers as a professional venue in Manhattan with a seating capacity between 100 and 499 (inclusive) or a specific production that appears in such a venue and adheres to related trade union and other contracts.
Previously, regardless of the size of the venue, a theatre was considered a Broadway (rather than off-Broadway) house if it was within the "Broadway Box", extending from 40th north to 54th Street and from Sixth Avenue west to Eighth Avenue, including Times Square and West 42nd Street. This change to the contractual definition of "off-Broadway" benefited theatres satisfying the 499-seat criterion because of the lower minimum required salary for Actors' Equity performers at Off-Broadway theatres as compared with the salary requirements of the union for Broadway theatres. The adoption of the 499-seat criterion occurred after a one-day strike in January 1974. Examples of off-Broadway theatres within the Broadway Box are the Laura Pels Theatre and The Theater Center.
The off-Broadway movement started in the 1950s as a reaction to the perceived commercialism of Broadway and provided less expensive venues for shows that have employed many future Broadway artists. An early success was Circle in the Square Theatre's 1952 production of Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams. According to theatre historians Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik, Off-Broadway offered a new outlet for "poets, playwrights, actors, songwriters, and designers. ... The first great Off-Broadway musical was the 1954 revival" of The Threepenny Opera, which proved that off-Broadway productions could be financially successful. Theatre Row, on West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in Manhattan, is a concentration of off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway theatres. It was developed in the mid-1970s and modernized in 2002.
Many off-Broadway shows have had subsequent runs on Broadway, including such successful musicals as Hair, Godspell, Little Shop of Horrors, Sunday in the Park with George, Rent, Grey Gardens, Urinetown, Avenue Q, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Rock of Ages, In the Heights, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Fun Home, Hamilton, and Dear Evan Hansen. In particular, two that became Broadway hits, Grease and A Chorus Line, encouraged other producers to premiere their shows off-Broadway. Plays that have moved from off-Broadway houses to Broadway include Doubt, I Am My Own Wife, Bridge & Tunnel, The Normal Heart, and Coastal Disturbances. Other productions, such as Stomp, Blue Man Group, Altar Boyz, Perfect Crime, Forbidden Broadway, Nunsense, Naked Boys Singing, Bat Boy: The Musical, and I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change have had runs of many years off-Broadway, never moving to Broadway. The Fantasticks, the longest-running musical in theatre history, spent its original 42-year run off-Broadway and began another long off-Broadway run in 2006.
Off-Broadway shows, performers, and creative staff are eligible for the following awards: the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Obie Award (presented since 1956 by The Village Voice), the Lucille Lortel Award (created in 1985 by the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers), and the Drama League Award. Although off-Broadway shows are not eligible for Tony Awards, an exception was made in 1956 (before the rules were changed), when Lotte Lenya won Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for the off-Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera.
List of off-Broadway theatres
Capacity is based on the capacity given for the respective theatre at the Internet Off-Broadway Database.
|New World Stages, Stage 1||W. 50th St. (No. 340)||499|
|New World Stages, Stage 2||W. 50th St. (No. 340)||350|
|New World Stages, Stage 3||W. 50th St. (No. 340)||499|
|New World Stages, Stage 4||W. 50th St. (No. 340)||350|
|New World Stages, Stage 5||W. 50th St. (No. 340)||199|
|59E59 Theaters, Theatre A||E. 59th St. (No. 59)||196|
|Acorn Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 410)||199|
|Irene Diamond Stage, Signature Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 480)||294|
|Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 480)||191|
|Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 480)||191|
|Playwrights Horizons Mainstage||W. 42nd St. (No. 416)||198|
|Peter Jay Sharp Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 416)||128|
|Stage 42||W. 42nd St. (No. 422)||499|
|St. Luke's Theatre||W. 46th St. (No. 308)||178|
|York Theatre||Lexington Ave. (No. 619)||161|
|Lucille Lortel Theatre||Christopher St. (No. 121)||299|
|The Duke on 42nd Street||W. 42nd St. (No. 229)||199|
|New Victory Theater||W. 42nd St. (No. 209)||499|
|Tony Kiser Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 305)||296|
|McGinn/Cazale Theatre||Broadway (No. 2162)||108|
|Westside Theatre, Upstairs Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 407)||270|
|Westside Theatre, Downstairs Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 407)||249|
|Vineyard Theatre||E. 15th St. (No. 108)||132|
|Triad Theatre||W. 72nd St. (No. 158)||130|
|Laura Pels Theatre||W. 46th St. (No. 111)||425|
|Jerry Orbach Theater||W. 50th St. (No. 210)||199|
|Anne L. Bernstein Theater||W. 50th St. (No. 210)||199|
|SoHo Playhouse||Vandam St. (No. 15)||178|
|Orpheum Theatre||Second Ave. (No. 126)||347|
|Minetta Lane Theatre||Minetta Lane (No. 18)||391|
|New York Theatre Workshop, Theatre 79||E. 4th St. (No. 79)||199|
|Claire Tow Theater||W. 65th St. (No. 150)||112|
|Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater||W. 65th St. (No. 150)||299|
|New York City Center Stage I||W. 55th St. (No. 131)||300|
|New York City Center Stage II||W. 55th St. (No. 131)||150|
|Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater||W. 63rd St. (No. 5)||145|
|Linda Gross Theatre||W. 20th St. (No. 336)||199|
|Irish Repertory Theatre||W. 22nd St. (No. 132)||148|
|Gramercy Arts Theatre||E. 27th St. (No. 138)||140|
|Classic Stage Company||E. 13th St. (No. 136)||199|
|Cherry Lane Theatre||Commerce St. (No. 38)||179|
|Jerome Robbins Theatre||W. 37th St. (No. 450)||238|
|Barrow Street Theatre||Barrow St. (No. 27)||199|
|Astor Place Theatre||Lafayette St. (No. 434)||298|
|Actors Temple Theatre||W. 47th St. (No. 339)||199|
|47th Street Theatre||W. 47th St. (No. 304)||196|
|Daryl Roth Theatre||E. 15th St. (No. 101)||299|
|Lynn Redgrave Theatre||Bleecker St. (No. 45)||199|
|Elektra Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 300)||199|
|777 Theatre||8th Ave. (No. 777)||158|
|John Cullum Theatre||W. 54th St. (No. 314)||140|
|Manhattan Movement & Arts Center||W. 60th St. (No. 248)||180|
|Players Theatre||MacDougal St. (No. 115)||248|
|Theatre 80 St. Mark's||St. Mark's Place (No. 80)||160|
|Theatre at St. Clement's Church||W. 46th St. (No. 423)||151|
|The Gym at Judson||Thompson St. (No. 243)||200|
|LuEsther Theatre||Lafayette St. (No. 425)||160|
|Martinson Theatre||Lafayette St. (No. 425)||199|
|Newman Theatre||Lafayette St. (No. 425)||299|
|Anspacher Theatre||Lafayette St. (No. 425)||275|
|Abrons Arts Center, Playhouse Theatre||Grand St. (No. 466)||300|
- League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers Inc. and The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers. "Off-Broadway Minimum Basic Agreement" (PDF). Retrieved December 14, 2007.
- Seymour, Lee. "Off-Broadway Theater Isn't Dying - It's Evolving. And It's More Profitable Than Ever". Forbes. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- "How to Tell Broadway from Off-Broadway from ..." Playbill Inc. January 4, 1998. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
No matter what else you may have heard, the distinction is mainly one of contracts. There are so many theatres of so many different sizes served by so many different unions in New York that this three-tiered Broadway/Off-Broadway/Off-Off-Broadway system evolved to determine who would get paid what. ... Most "Broadway" theatres are not on Broadway, the street. A few theatres on Broadway, the street, are considered "Off-Broadway."
- "Actors' Equity 1970's Timeline". Actors' Equity Association. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- "Circle in the Square papers", New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, accessed December 18, 2018
- Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. "Off Broadway, Part 1", Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time, Black Dog Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1-57912-313-9, p. 94
- McKinley, Jesse. "Upscale March of Theatre Row; A Centerpiece of Redevelopment", The New York Times, November 21, 2002, accessed March 2, 2017
- "Off Broadway Theatre Information". offbroadway.com. League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
- Lefkowitz, David. "The Fantasticks Bids Farewell, Jan. 13, After 42 Years on Sullivan Street", Playbill, January 13, 2002, accessed January 28, 2017; and Gordon, David. "After 56 Years, Tom Jones Isn't Finished With The Fantasticks", TheaterMania.com, September 9, 2016
- Threepenny Opera Off Broadway threepennyopera.org
- "RENTAL FACT SHEET SP". Google Docs. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
- "NYTW / Rent Space @ NYTW". NYTW. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
- "Script Submissions". Lincoln Center Theater. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
- "The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater". www.ymcanyc.org. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
- "FAQs - The Irish Repertory Theatre". The Irish Repertory Theatre. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
- "Gramercy Arts Theatre". Time Out New York. Retrieved December 12, 2017.