NEW YORK — The families streaming in to see “The Lion King” were told to have their tickets out and their masks on, but there was no mention of vaccine cards. And the COVID-19 safety officers in neon yellow vests who used to patrol outside “Six” were gone.
Most Broadway theaters stopped checking the vaccination status of their patrons this week for the first time since they began to reopen this past summer.
The industry hopes that doing away with vaccine checks will make theatergoing more attractive, and that the remaining mask mandate will help keep audiences safe as cases have risen.
While some patrons welcomed the change, others said they felt uneasy about going into crowded theaters without the assurance that their seatmates were vaccinated, and several nonprofit Broadway theaters continue to require proof of vaccination.
“I just don’t feel as safe as I have the past several months,” said Lauren Broyles, 44, an executive assistant from Hershey, Pennsylvania, who visited New York to see shows several times during the winter but said she had stopped planning a summer theater trip after reading that Broadway dropped its vaccine mandate.
The changes to safety protocols come as Broadway yearns for a profitable spring. More than a dozen shows opened last month, a major, risky bet for a theater industry trying to bounce back from a rough winter in which the virus forced a number of shows to cancel performances during the crucial holiday period and others to close prematurely.
Broadway theater owners and operators were among the first to require customers to show proof of vaccines and to wear masks, acting together to come up with a common set of protocols even before the city adopted similar vaccine requirements for many indoor activities. Now there is no longer a uniform policy.
While all of Broadway’s for-profit theater owners and operators agreed to stop checking proof of vaccination as of this past Sunday (“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” continues to require proof of vaccination for some people in its special table seating near the stage and cast), three of the four nonprofit Broadway theater operators have decided to keep their vaccine mandate in place.