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The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment Unveils NYC's First-Ever Small Theater Industry Cultural and Economic Impact Study

Groundbreaking report calls attention to the vibrance, importance and growth of NYC's small theater industry and the challenges it faces

The study found 748 venues and organizations, responsible for $1.3B in economic output, 8,400-plus full-time jobs and $512M in wages


NEW YORK, NY – The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment today announces the first-ever study of its kind, "ALL NEW YORK'S A STAGE: NYC Small Theater Industry Cultural and Economic Impact Study." This groundbreaking report calls attention to the vibrance of the small theater community, and offers an in-depth portrait of the size, makeup, location, overall cultural importance and economic impact of the sector; as well as the challenges the industry is facing.

Small Theater Industry Cultural and Economic Impact Study


The study comes on the heels of the of the first-ever ALL NEW YORK'S A STAGE public awareness campaign during the month of October, which encouraged New Yorkers and visitors to experience the city's small theater scene throughout the five boroughs.

"We are proud to present the first-ever NYC Small Theater Industry Cultural and Economic Impact Study, which provides an in-depth look at a little-understood but important component of New York City's cultural scene," said Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, Anne del Castillo. "This study is part of our ongoing efforts to amplify the diversity of NYC theater as well as the media and entertainment industry, and shine a light on the cultural and economic contributions of small theaters to NYC's creative economy."


Among the study's topline findings:

  • New York City has 748 small theater organizations operating Off and Off-Off Broadway. These spaces, companies, and institutions can be found in every borough, give voice to underrepresented communities, and serve a thriving community of theatergoers.
  • NYC's small theater industry has economic impact. It generates $1.3B in economic output, supports 8,400-plus full-time jobs, and pays $512M in wages a year.
  • The sector is diverse. There are 600 production companies, 97 theaters, and 51 organizations that exist under the umbrella of a larger institution; 96%, or 724, operate as not-for-profits. Small theaters and organizations are spreading out through the city.
  • The industry is growing despite closures and challenges. Since 2011, more than 280 theater organizations have opened, and 100-plus theater organizations have closed. The small theater industry faces increasing challenges from rising operating costs, including affordable rehearsal and performance space, wages and production costs.
  • The small venue theater industry's growth has outpaced baseline economic growth by 20% for economic output and 100% for job and wage growth. Specifically, over the past four years, economic output, wages, and jobs have each grown at approximately 5% annually within the sector. Citywide economic output has grown at under 4% on average over the same period, and jobs and wages have grown at approximately 2.5%.
  • Small theaters and organizations receive vital financial support from the City of New York. In FY19 alone, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) provided $45.6M in expense and operating support for 383 organizations working in theater and/or multidisciplinary arts. This represents close to 23% of DCLA's FY19 overall expense budget. As the largest arts funder after the federal government, DCLA continues to make a major commitment to support the small-theater industry.

To read the entire study, please visit:

"NYC's dynamic, vibrant, iconic theater industry simply couldn't exist without our rich ecosystem of small theaters," said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. "Smaller venues are where exciting ideas and new talent get to connect with audiences. And it's smaller groups that bring the incredible benefits – social, economic, educational – of the performing arts to communities across all five boroughs. The City is proud to provide robust funding for theater programming and other assistance to help this sector to thrive. We thank our colleagues in the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment for commissioning this eye-opening report, helping everyone to better understand the essential role small theaters play in the cultural life of our city, and what we need to do to support them."

"Manhattan continues to prove to be a hub of artistic and cultural life, and I am happy to see this good news about the growing employment, wage levels and economic output numbers from the small theater sector," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "I thank the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment for compiling this report, and I hope this data serves to raise more awareness for the vital role that small theaters play in both our economy and society at large."

"It's no secret that small theaters are a big draw for locals and visitors alike," said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. "When we think of the St. George Theatre, of the Music Hall at Snug Harbor, of the Courtroom at Historic Richmond Town, and the small venues around the Island, we think of creativity and a love of music and theater. We don't always think of the economic and cultural drivers that small theaters are, and that's exactly what they are. As a borough, we embrace these venues, not only as an outlet for entertainment, but for education and culture."

"The many small theaters in Queens enable our borough to offer a great deal of high-quality performing arts programming and has contributed to a vibrant arts and entertainment scene that helps make our borough such a great place to live and visit," said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. "These small theaters are also key economic drivers in Queens and throughout the city, generating $1.3 billion in annual economic output and supporting 8,400-plus full-time jobs citywide. This report from the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment compellingly illustrates the importance of small theaters to our city and borough."

"Tourists visit from across the globe to enjoy New York City theater productions large and small, and now we have valuable insight into our theaters which provide world class performances on a smaller scale of production. Small theaters are an accessible outlet for the arts, both for patrons and our creative professionals who thrive in the industry, and we need to support them so that sector can grow. Thank you to Media and Entertainment Commissioner Anne del Castillo for taking such a close look at this vital aspect of our city's economy," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

"Small venue theaters in New York City are a hotbed of creativity and are a driving cultural force because of the fabulous intersectionality that exists inside our walls," said Niegel Smith, Artistic Director at the Flea Theater. "Over 30 different companies in music, dance and theater create and perform each season. Our audiences and artists are diverse in practice, income, education, ethnicity and nationality - leading to collaborations that are wholly unique and groundbreaking."

"This study makes an important and positive contribution to the NYC small theater community and is very much in keeping in alignment with all the great work MOME does to support small theaters and organizations, like NYMF, that work to introduce new and diverse voices into NYC's cultural landscape," said Scott Pyne, Executive Director, New York Musical Festival.

"GalaPro is honored to be a part of New York City Theatre, and all that this wonderful city has to offer," said Mai Yamada, Head of Global Operations & Marketing at GalaPrompter. "As a growing start-up, partnering with MOME has enabled us to provide access to non-profit theatres, and allowed countless more guests to enjoy and understand the art form they love."

"A healthy and thriving theater ecosystem means the actors and stage managers who bring a show to life are fairly compensated and are protected with basic work rules like Equity contracts, workers' compensation and unemployment insurance," said Mary McColl, Executive Director of Actors' Equity Association.

"New York is one of the nation's leading incubators of new ideas, cultural inclusion, award-winning theater, and media content," said John Clinton Eisner, Artistic Director, The Lark Theatre. "This study is groundbreaking because the economic and cultural impact of the small theater sector has not been widely understood nor adequately resourced until now. It is difficult to put a dollar value on the creative capital that makes New York a center for artistic innovation, but this study takes us behind the scenes to show how the sausage gets made."

"It is gratifying to know that the Mayor's office of Media and Entertainment has conducted such an exhaustive study of the arts and entertainment in New York City," said Anne Hamburger, Founder & Artistic Director, En Garde Arts. "The many small theatres in the city and those working independently and on site-specific work are to a large extent under resourced. Showing the economic impact of this artistically robust industry will hopefully help attract sorely needed support, and the City deserves to be commended for their efforts."

"By combining the development of exciting new work in performance with running workshops and programs designed for all ages in our neighborhood, we aim to create a close relationship between our theater, our artists, the larger theater going audience, and local community members that feels authentic, immediate and authentic," said Noel Allain, Artistic Director, Bushwick Starr. "The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment has helped us bring one such partnership with Flako Jimenez's Oye Group, our Summer Arts Festival, to Maria Hernandez Park each summer providing free outdoor programming and activities for all ages."

"Small venue theaters not only feed the City's economy, they promote the diverse and rich cultures of our City. They exist in all five boroughs where people live, making them truly accessible to families including seniors and small children," said Sheila Lewandowski, Executive Director, The Chocolate Factory Theater. "They host local celebrations and conversations. They reach outside of their stage doors to plant daffodil bulbs and then teach the children to draw the flowers on cards for their families. These small venue theaters are community centers with culture at their core. They belong to their neighbors and neighborhoods as a point of pride and service."

"Small-venue theater is an important part of the New York City arts landscape," said Adam Krauthamer, President & Executive Director, Associated Musicians of Greater New York. "The success of these small theaters comes in partnership with the world-class New York union musicians from Local 802 who they hire to perform in their shows every night. We are proud that theatergoers across the city get to experience first-hand our union musicians' artistic and economic contributions to the City of New York."

"It is powerful to see the breadth, depth, and impact of the small theatre venues on the City's vibrancy. These theatres serve as critical laboratories and generators for artists, providing SDC directors and choreographers valuable opportunities at all stages of their careers, while serving as economic drivers in their neighborhoods," said Laura Penn, Executive Director, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). "The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment has delivered research that makes the case for continued and increased support of this expansive and vital network of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theaters."