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Broadway theatre
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Broadway theatre

Note on spelling: While most Americans spell "theater" with an "er" (as per American spelling conventions), and in the case of a "movie theater" it is the general spelling, in the field of live theatre the majority of theatres use the spelling of "theatre." This can be seen from the magazine American Theatre published by the Theatre Communications Group and the American Theatre Wing, which sponsors the Tony Awards.

Broadway theatre is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. Broadway theatre, or a Broadway show, refers to a performance (usually a stage play or musical) staged in one of the thirty-nine larger professional theatres located in New York City, with 500 seats or more, that appeal to the mass audience.

While the term "Broadway" comes from the street, Broadway, not all Broadway theatres are located on this street. The majority of Broadway theatres are located in the area called Midtown, in and around Times Square. Broadway theatres are usually run by a producing organization (e.g., Nederlander, Disney, et cetera), or another theatre group (e.g., Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theater, et cetera).

All Broadway shows are professionally produced and adhere to strict contracts for all artists involved (e.g., performers, directors, musicians, playwrights, stage managers, et cetera). Artistic trade unions such as Actors' Equity, commonly known simply as "Equity," and the Dramatics Guild bargain for contracts guaranteeing minimum wages and other rights involved with the rehearsal and production process. On rare occasions, disputes over contracts can result in a group of artists going on strike. In 2003, musicians in the orchestra pit of Broadway musicals went on strike to protest producers plans to replace them with a "virtual orchestra."

Broadway shows may run for a varying number of weeks, depending on ticket sales. Musicals tend to have longer runs than do stage plays. The longest running show in Broadway history was Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which closed in 2000 after running for 7,485 performances at the Winter Garden Theatre.

In addition to long runs in Broadway theatres, producers often copy the production with a new cast and crew for the Broadway Tour, which travels to theatres across the country. Both musicals and stage plays on Broadway and in their respective tours often rely on casting well-known performers in leading roles to draw larger audiences or bring in new audience members to the theatre. Actors from movies and television are frequently cast for the premieres of Broadway shows or are used to replace actors leaving a cast. Many performers, however, are still primarily "stage" actors, who spend more time on the stages of New York and will appear in television and screen roles as a secondary venue.

Broadway shows and artists are honored every June when the Antoinette Perry Awards (Tony Awards) are given by the American Theatre Wing. The Tony is Broadway's highest theatre award. The importance of these awards has increased since their annual broadcast on television began. Celebrities are often chosen to host the show, like Hugh Jackman and Rosie O'Donnell, in addition to celebrity presenters. While some critics have felt that the show should focus on celebrating the stage, many others recognize the positive impact that famous faces lend to selling more tickets and bringing more people to the theatre. The performances from Broadway musicals on the telecast have also been cited as vital to the survival of many Broadway shows.

Seeing a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York City and a business that generates billions of dollars annually. The TKTS booth in Duffy Square, at Broadway and 47th Street, sells half-price tickets for same-day tickets for many Broadway and still professional Off-Broadway shows. This service helps sell empty seats and makes seeing a show in New York more affordable. Many Broadway theatres also offer special student rates, same-day "rush" tickets, or standing-room tickets to help ensure that more people have the opportunity to see Broadways shows.

Smaller theatres in New York City host a huge variety of other theatrical performances, which are referred to as Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway. The classification of theatres is governed by language in Actors' Equity contracts. To be eligible for a Tony, a production must be in a house with 500 seats or more, which pretty much defines the Broadway Theatre.

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