The Upstate Theater Coalition proposing NY State protection plan

Ten historic Upstate Performing Arts Centers, including Proctors, have come together through nearly two years of Covid-19 related trauma to seek the support of New York State to guarantee they can “keep the lights on.”

These centers and theatres, located from Buffalo to Poughkeepsie, are the pulsing hearts of Upstate New York’s downtowns. They generate a remarkable annual economic impact of over $200 million per year serving millions of annual patrons and students. After being shut down for nearly 18 months, these theaters, like their peers in New York City, have had a challenging restart due to continuing Covid concerns and audience hesitancy.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s Executive Budget proposal included $350 million for a pandemic relief fund for “businesses and theater/musical arts”. The Upstate Theater Coalition is asking for a maximum appropriation of $25 million from the proposed pandemic relief fund.

“The Upstate Theater Coalition is grateful to Governor Hochul for her leadership and commitment to upstate theaters through her proposal to create a $350 million pandemic relief fund that would in part provide necessary financial assistance to cultural arts institutions,” said Philip Morris, the group’s spokesperson. “We are asking the Governor and the Legislature to set aside only 7 percent or $25 million of this fund in the adopted state budget for upstate theaters in the coalition. This commitment would ensure that these upstate performing arts centers will at least not suffer financial losses or be forced to lay off staff as New York moves past the COVID pandemic.” 

The Upstate Theater Coalition is proposing that the state guarantee up to 80 percent of the theater’s budgeted revenue from ticket sales and concessions for the 2022 theater season, with total assistance not to exceed $25 million. Any theater that exceeds 80 percent of their potential 2022 revenue would not receive assistance, and the state would provide aid up to 80 percent of potential revenue for any theater that falls short. This plan will enable upstate theaters to continue to confidently program their stages and bring people back into Upstate’s downtowns, supporting each community’s restaurants, services, shops and lodging establishments as they recover. 

This Coalition has worked together in various formations in the past to both start and extend the Upstate Theater Tax Credit, which entices Broadway producers to tech and begin national tours Upstate and to work to mitigate the potential harm from performances at Casinos. 

Members of the Coalition include: 

  • Proctors Collaborative, Albany/Schenectady/Saratoga
  • Shea’s Performing Arts, Buffalo
  • Rochester Broadway Theatre League, Rochester
  • The Landmark, Syracuse
  • The Stanley Theatre, Utica
  • The State Theatre, Ithaca
  • The Bardavon/UPAC, Poughkeepsie/Kingston
  • The Palace Theatre, Albany
  • Clemens Center, Elmira
  • The Smith Center for the Arts, Geneva