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    Making Up for Lost Time as Ibiza’s Clubs Reopen

    IBIZA, Spain — As the sun was setting over Ibiza last Saturday, the party at Ushuaïa was just hitting its stride. Nearly 8,000 people had gathered at the outdoor mega-club for the beginning of the island’s first clubbing season in three years, and the crowd — including many women in tasseled bikinis and tanned, musclebound men — seemed intent on making up for lost time.While Artbat, a Ukrainian D.J. duo, played a high-octane blend of house and techno, the dancers heaved around the club’s large pool, cheered on by guests from the overlooking hotel balconies. In the V.I.P. section, a parade of staff carrying sparklers announced that a high-paying guest had just purchased another pricey bottle of champagne.Sipping a drink at the bar, Mina Mallet, a heavily tattooed 25-year-old finance worker from Zurich, said that the reopening of Ibiza’s clubs marked the end of a difficult and tedious period in Europe. “It means a new beginning: for enjoying life, enjoying our freedom and getting wasted,” she said. “I actually think people are going harder than before.”After more than two years of uncertainty for nightclubs, governments across Europe have gradually dropped many of their pandemic restrictions over the last few months, allowing clubs to reopen with a sense of relative stability for the first time in two years.On the dance floor at Amnesia, one of Ibiza’s mega-clubs. Roughly 30,000 people traveled to Ibiza this past weekend to go to the clubs, according to a local nightlife association.Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesIn many countries, including Spain, Germany and Britain, governments now allow clubs to welcome visitors without any vaccine checks, masks or distancing requirements. And although the pandemic is not yet over, and a new variant could appear anytime to spoil the fun, Europe’s clubbers seem ready to relive the days when nobody had ever heard of Covid-19.The return of the clubs has come as a relief to many workers in the nightlife sector, which has been especially hard-hit. Before the pandemic, 45 percent of the gross domestic product in the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, came from tourism, for which clubbing is a major draw. In the first half of last year, tourist spending in Ibiza and the nearby island of Formentera was less than one-third of prepandemic levels, according to the Statistical Institute of the Balearic Islands.Ocio de Ibiza, a local nightlife association, estimates that 30,000 people traveled to Ibiza this past weekend to go to the clubs, a number on par with a prepandemic opening weekend. Sanjay Nandi, the chief executive of the group that runs the large Pacha nightclub, said in an interview before the opening that advance ticket sales had surpassed those of previous years. Of the island’s major clubs, only one, Privilege, does not yet have plans to reopen this summer.“I know we are very lucky,” Nandi said, explaining that, like other clubs, Pacha had received help from Spain’s government in the form of a furlough program for staff. The company also received a loan of 18 million euros, about $19 million, from the government’s Recapitalization Fund for pandemic-hit businesses, and it was able to get some revenue through its constellation of restaurants and other venues. Nandi said that the size of Ibiza’s major clubs — whose capacities range from around 3,000 to 7,800 — and their associated political clout allowed them to weather the pandemic better than smaller venues. “Being bigger helps,” he said.Nearly 8,000 people gathered at the outdoor mega-club Ushuaïa on Saturday.Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesA professional dancer getting ready for the opening party at Pacha, another Ibiza club.Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesOther clubs in Europe have been less fortunate. According to France24, the French broadcaster, 200 clubbing venues in the country had permanently closed because of the pandemic as of last fall. A survey released in October by the Night Time Industries Association, a British lobbying group, found that 22 percent of the city’s clubs had shuttered since the pandemic’s start.Amy Lamé, London’s “night czar,” a city hall official charged with liaising between nightlife businesses and city authorities, said in an interview that the city was still doing its own assessment of the damage done. Although the British government gave relief grants to venues, she said, the country’s unpredictable public health measures, “which sometimes changed from one day to the next,” had posed a particular challenge.Lamé added that the city had also provided targeted aid to what she described as the most “vulnerable” venues, including L.G.B.T.Q. clubs. Those grants meant that all of London’s L.G.B.T.Q. clubs survived the pandemic, she said. “If we lose those kinds of venues, we lose part of the essence of London,” said Lamé.Perhaps the most ambitious measures to protect the clubbing sector were taken in Berlin, another European clubbing capital where nightlife is recognized as a key driver of the city economy. According to a 2018 study by the Berlin Club Commission, tourists visiting the German capital for its club scene contributed approximately $1.7 billion to the city’s economy.Partygoers at Ushuaïa. Before the pandemic, 45 percent of the gross domestic product in the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, came from tourism, for which clubbing is a major draw. Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesAs well as offering financial aid for small and large businesses during the pandemic, German officials classified clubs as cultural venues, allowing them to access a 2-billion-euro fund meant for institutions such as museums and theaters. In Berlin, extra emergency funding was also made available for shuttered clubs. Kyle Van Horn, the managing director of Trauma Bar und Kino, a Berlin club and arts venue, said the pandemic was a turning point in the way officials have treated clubs. “I think there was a change from the side of the government; they are finally seeing us as relevant contributors to society,” he said.In an interview, Lutz Leichsenring, a Club Commission spokesman, said that thanks to the support, no Berlin clubs had closed as a direct result of pandemic restrictions. “The aid money was done in a very well-targeted way,” he said by phone. He explained that the pandemic had vindicated yearslong efforts by Berlin’s clubbing industry to mobilize as a political force. “We were very well networked as a sector,” he said.And perhaps inevitably, the social changes of the past two years are also making themselves felt on the dance floor. Steven Braines, a co-founder of He.She.They, a London-based record label and event company organizing L.G.B.T.Q.-inclusive parties at Ibiza’s Amnesia mega-club this season, said club organizers were now more focused on expanding gender and racial diversity among the acts they booked, which he said was partly a result of the heightened international visibility of movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter during the pandemic.Braines added that he sensed that men “maybe aren’t as predatorial anymore on the dance floor.” Club culture would now be reshaped, he said, by a cohort of 18- to 20-year-olds who were now visiting clubs for the first time, and who had less experience with drugs and alcohol. “This will be a new breed,” he said.The dance floor at Amnesia on Friday night.Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesUshuaïa on Saturday.Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesOn Friday night, some of these newcomers were gathering outside Amnesia, on a highway outside Ibiza’s largest town. “I had just turned 18 when the pandemic happened, and everyone told me that I had lost the best years of going out,” said Sebastian Ochoa, 20, who works in social media in Madrid. “When I go out at home, there’s a limit, but here there’s the party, the after-party, the after-after-party. I’m here to make up for lost time.”A few feet away, Richard Stone, 58, said he had been coming to the club for 30 years, often four times a season, so he felt he couldn’t miss the reopening. “This is a milestone,” he said.A few minutes away by car, at Pacha, near Ibiza’s main yacht marina, a more glamorous party was taking place. A line of several hundred snaked around the exterior of the hulking white club, which includes a rooftop terrace, garden, restaurant and gift shop, where visitors could buy a scooter helmet bearing the club’s logo ($221) or a Pacha-branded game of Monopoly.The upstairs area of the V.I.P. section, where guests paid up to 25,000 euros for a table, was filled with groups of men in white dinner jackets and women in sparkly minidresses dancing to a set by Solomun, a German-Bosnian D.J. At one of the tables, Arthur Coutis, a 20-year-old visitor from Paris, said he had the feeling that the pandemic had led clubbers to shift their priorities.“Before it was much more about money and drinking — now it’s much more about freedom, and enjoying the music,” he said, looking out over the crowd. As the music reached a new climax, a nearby group raised a bottle of champagne, and screamed with joy.Opening weekend celebrations at Pacha.The club received about $19 million from the Spanish government’s Recapitalization Fund for pandemic-hit businesses.Samuel Aranda for The New York Times More

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    Cities and States Are Easing Covid Restrictions. Are Theaters and the Arts Next?

    Cultural institutions face tough decisions: Is it safe to drop mask and vaccine requirements, and would doing so be more likely to lure audiences back or keep them away?When music fans walked beneath the familiar piano-shaped awning and into the dark embrace of the Blue Note Jazz Club in Greenwich Village this week, a late-pandemic fixture was missing: No one was checking proof of vaccination and photo IDs.A special guest visited to herald the change. “Good to be back out,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York told the overwhelmingly maskless audience Monday, the day the city stopped requiring proof of vaccination at restaurants and entertainment venues. “I consider myself the nightlife mayor, so I’m going to assess the product every night.”It is a different story uptown, where Carnegie Hall continues to require masks and vaccines and the Metropolitan Opera goes even further, requiring that all eligible people show proof that they have received their booster shots — safety measures that always went beyond what the city required but which reassured many music lovers. “We want the audience to feel comfortable and safe,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.With cities and states across the country moving to scale back mask and vaccine requirements as coronavirus cases fall, leaders of cultural institutions find themselves confronted once again with difficult decisions: Is it safe to ease virus safety measures, and would doing so be more likely to lure audiences back or keep them away?Their responses have varied widely. Broadway will continue to require masks and proof of vaccination through at least the end of April. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington announced that it would drop its mask requirement for visitors to its museums and the National Zoo on Friday, following moves by major art museums in places like Chicago and Houston. Some comedy clubs in New York that ditched masking mandates months ago are weighing whether to continue to require proof of vaccination.“At the beginning of this, many arts organizations were having to develop their own policies before there were clear government guidelines,” said Matthew Shilvock, the general director of the San Francisco Opera. “As we come out of this, again, you’re finding arts companies having to find their own way.”The Metropolitan Opera continues to require masks and proof of vaccination and booster shots, and to limit food and drink consumption to one part of the opera house.Todd Heisler/The New York TimesIn interviews, leaders of almost a dozen cultural groups across the country emphasized the need for caution and carefulness. But they noted that each of their situations are distinct. In museums, patrons can roam large galleries and opt for social distance as they please. In theaters and concert halls, audience members are seated close together, immobile for the duration of a performance. Opera houses and symphony orchestras tend to draw an older and more vulnerable audience than night clubs and comedy clubs.The feedback arts leaders say they are getting from visitors has differed: Some said that they had felt increasing pressure to ease their rules in recent weeks, while others said the vast majority of their audience members have told them that they were more likely to visit venues that continue to maintain strict health and safety requirements.“For every one person who complains about the mask requirement, we have probably about 10 people who express unsolicited gratitude for the fact we are choosing to still have masks in place,” said Meghan Pressman, the managing director and chief executive of the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles. She said she would be “surprised” if her organization changed its masking rules before Broadway does.On Broadway, which was shut down by the pandemic for more than a year, officials have said that theater operators would continue to require masks and proof of vaccination through at least April. “We do look forward to welcoming our theatergoers without masks one day soon, and in the meantime, want to ensure that we keep our cast, crew and theatergoers safe so that we can continue to bring the magic of Broadway to our audiences without interruption,” Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, said in a statement.The Metropolitan Opera, which was the first major arts institution to require people entering their opera house to be both vaccinated and boosted, never missed a performance during the height of the recent Omicron surge, and is in no rush to ease its safety measures. “For us, safety comes before Covid fatigue,” said Gelb, the general manager. “So we’re going to err on the side of caution.”But the company has eased some of its backstage protocols: Soloists were not required to wear masks during recent stage rehearsals of Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” which helped some work on their diction as the company sang it in the original French for the first time.Like the Met, the New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center are also maintaining their mask and vaccine mandates for the moment. Carnegie Hall continues to require masks and proof of vaccination, but recently dropped its policy of briefly requiring booster shots. Masking and vaccine rules also remain in place at the San Francisco Opera, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera and Center Theater Group.Two of New York’s premier art-house cinemas are taking different approaches — at least for now. Film Forum’s website says that proof of vaccination is no longer required and that masks are encouraged but not required. Film at Lincoln Center will continue to require proof of vaccination and masks through Sunday, but plans to relax its policy next week.The Metropolitan Museum of Art has stopped checking vaccine cards but is still requiring masks indoors.Seth Wenig/Associated PressA recent poll conducted by The Associated Press found that half of Americans approve of mask mandates, down from 55 percent who supported the mandates six months ago and 75 percent who supported them in December 2020.Choosing what to do is not easy.Christopher Koelsch, the president of the Los Angeles Opera, said that the surveys he has reviewed suggest that roughly a third of audience members would only come to performances if a mask mandate was in place — but that roughly a third would refuse to come if masks are required.“No matter what decision you make,” he said, “there are people who are going to be upset with you and believe that you are making the wrong decision.”Some museums are in an in-between moment. The Metropolitan Museum of Art stopped checking vaccine cards as of Monday but still requires masks. And the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is likely to lift its mask mandate this month, said Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director.As mask mandates fall in schools, restaurants and other settings, he said, he felt “almost forced” to follow suit. “What I’d like to see us do is keep this as a suggestion,” he said of wearing masks indoors.Other art venues have already changed their rules. Officials at the Art Institute of Chicago said the museum eliminated its requirements for masks and vaccines on Feb. 28 in line with new governmental policies. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — one of the first major American museums to reopen after the country went into lockdown in March 2020 — also relaxed its most recent mask mandate last week. As it did previously in the fall, the museum is now recommending — but not requiring — masks for visitors and staff.“We’ve had an increasing number of visitors and staff inquire about why we haven’t — or when are we going to — relax the mandatory mask requirement,” said Gary Tinterow, the museum’s director.At the Broadway Comedy Club in New York, patrons have been allowed inside maskless for some time. But Al Martin, the club’s president, said he has been debating whether to stop requiring that his guests be vaccinated.On one hand, he said, checking people at the door required him to add staff members, which costs money. And he estimated that he has lost roughly 30 percent of his audience because of the mandate. On the other, he said, he liked having a city vaccine mandate to fall back on. “It gave a degree of safety and assurance to people,” he said.He ultimately decided to do away with the vaccine mandate at his club as of Monday despite his personal concern that the city “might have been slightly premature” in rolling back the rules.He reserves the right to change his mind about his club’s policy, he said.“If I see my business drop 40 percent because people are not feeling safe in my venue,” he said, “we’re going back to the vaccine passport.” More

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    In London Theaters, the Show (Sometimes) Goes On

    A surge in coronavirus infections toppled production after production, but two stage adaptations — of a movie and a blockbuster novel — recovered and endure.LONDON — The show goes on, or these days maybe not. The uptick of coronavirus infections in the last month has upended live performances as severely here as on Broadway. During the holiday season, productions toppled one after another, unable to continue because of outbreaks in their casts or crews. Barely had Rebecca Frecknall’s revelatory revival of “Cabaret,” starring Eddie Redmayne, opened to rave reviews before it lost a spate of performances, a scenario repeated on and off the West End.Shutdowns affected big productions like “Moulin Rouge!,” the epic Tony-winning musical whose much-delayed London opening is now scheduled for Jan. 20. But they also occurred at fringe theaters like the Bush, where a two-hander called “Fair Play” closed within days of its premiere. (The run has since resumed.) Elsewhere, the organizers of the VAULT festival decided “with broken hearts,” they said in a statement, to cancel what would have been the 10th anniversary edition of that important showcase for new work.The Royal Court and the National Theater, two prominent state-funded playhouses, shut their doors altogether during the lucrative holiday period, and, over in the commercial sphere, Andrew Lloyd Webber closed his new musical, “Cinderella,” until February. “I am absolutely devastated,” the composer wrote on Twitter on Dec. 21.So you can imagine my delight this week to find the Donmar Warehouse back in business after being caught up in the closures, presenting the stage premiere of “Force Majeure,” adapted from the 2014 movie. (The play is scheduled to run through Feb. 5.) The audience at the 251-seat theater had to show proof of vaccination or a negative antigen test before entry, and we remained masked throughout — something that, until recently, has been an all too rare sight here. (At “Cinderella” back in August, I clocked scarcely a single mask.)I’m not sure that the playwright Tim Price’s adaptation, alas, is worth all the protocol. Those who know the Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s Cannes Grand Jury prize-winner will recall its portrait of a marriage in free fall, which is sometimes bitterly funny but, more often than not, disturbing and even eerie. Set during five days in the French Alps, “Force Majeure” tells of a husband and wife and their two young children whose ski holiday doesn’t quite go as planned.Caught up in a controlled avalanche that appears to be out of control, Tomas abandons his family in the moment of crisis — or so claims his wife, Ebba, who is shaken by his behavior. Before long, Tomas’s ready smile turns to howls of grief and an awareness that their relationship has been altered for keeps.The theatrical version’s director, Michael Longhurst, has turned the Donmar stage into a miniature ski slope, and the backdrop of Jon Bausor’s clever design shows off the snow-capped mountains essential to the action. What transfers less well is the darkening, ambiguous tone of a film that, in Price’s stage iteration, seems both more literal and more vulgar: Much is made of one character’s priapic tendencies. The couple’s stage children are sullen brats who would have been better off left at home, and the film’s extraordinary ending aboard a wayward bus has been discarded in favor of silly shenanigans in an overcrowded elevator.As the hapless couple, Rory Kinnear and Lyndsey Marshal, both fine actors, slalom their way between affection and recrimination in what plays for the most part as a routine domestic comedy. Tomas’s breakdown — harrowing to watch onscreen — elicited laughs from some spectators the other night.Hiran Abeysekera, left, as Pi and Tom Larkin as Tiger Head in “Life of Pi,” directed by Max Webster, at Wyndham’s Theater.Johan PerssonThe stagecraft is more of an occasion at another play whose performances were interrupted late last year: “Life of Pi,” at Wyndham’s Theater, improbably brings to theatrical life the 2001 novel by Yann Martel that inspired the acclaimed 2012 film for which the director Ang Lee won an Oscar.In that version, 3-D plunges the moviegoer directly into the turbulent waters of a tale told largely at sea, as the teenage Pi, a zookeeper’s son, finds himself cast adrift on a lifeboat with only animals for company — chief among them a Bengal tiger known as Richard Parker. Not to be outdone, the play brings together veterans from the world of video and puppetry who work alongside the director Max Webster and the designer Tim Hatley in conjuring an array of beasts before a rapt audience. The cast list includes six puppeteers for the tiger alone, overseen by the puppetry and movement director Finn Caldwell, who also designed the puppets with Nick Barnes.The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to KnowCard 1 of 4The latest Covid data in the U.S. More

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    How TV Shows Are Moving Past the Coronavirus Pandemic

    Remember the coronavirus pandemic? Some shows, faced with an unpredictable reality, prefer to put it safely in the past.“Sex and the City” always existed in a fantasy version of New York City, but in its HBO Max sequel, “And Just Like That,” there’s a different sort of illusion at work. In the opening scene, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are waiting for a table at a very crowded, very indoor restaurant.“Remember when we legally had to stand six feet apart from one another?” Carrie quips.And just like that … Covid is over. At least it is in this show’s Manhattan, as well as in a cohort of other series that try, wishfully, to press the epidemiological fast-forward button.In the real world, the Omicron variant may be driving case counts into the stratosphere, but on TV, the pandemic is playing dead. In the Season 11 premiere of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David’s HBO comedy of ill manners, chaos breaks out during a party (specifically, a premature funeral) at Albert Brooks’s house when Larry finds a closet stuffed with Purell, toilet paper and KN95 masks, exposing the “Lost in America” director as having been a “Covid hoarder.”You know — during the pandemic. The one that is definitely over.For nearly two years now, representing (or avoiding) Covid on TV has been a choice among bad options. Most shows ignored it altogether. A few, like “Social Distance” on Netflix, made the pandemic a direct subject, earnestly if clunkily.But maybe most awkward have been the series that acknowledged Covid existed but declared or implied it was over long before Covid decided it was over. NBC’s time-skipping “This Is Us” played the pandemic’s greatest hits throughout Season 5 — quarantine, video calls, pandemic unemployment — but this week’s Season 6 premiere suggests that the show has moved on. Season 2 of HBO Max’s “Love Life,” a story that spans several years, includes one pandemic episode, then begins the next in a version of 2021 where an audience is sitting unmasked in New York’s La MaMa theater.Some prime-time series about doctors, police and other emergency workers made fitful efforts to depict Covid, but their mask discipline sagged over time. “Grey’s Anatomy,” for instance, brought the pandemic full-on to Seattle Grace hospital in fall 2020. By fall 2021, it opened with the disclaimer that it now “portrays a fictional, post-pandemic world which represents our hopes for the future.”In the most recent season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David, right, outed Albert Brooks as a “Covid hoarder.”John P. Johnson/HBOThese are all understandable choices, and maybe the only creatively practical ones. But they make for some potent cognitive dissonance. When I watched a “post-pandemic” “Grey’s” episode recently on Hulu, it opened with a pre-roll ad urging me to get a booster shot.For programs that simply try to show how people live daily life, the pandemic’s challenges are both subtler and more pervasive than those presented by past catastrophes. After 9/11, there was no need for homeland-security alerts to impinge on “Friends,” and the subsequent fixation on terrorism was even a natural driver of plot for action thrillers.The pandemic, on the other hand, quelled action. Covid touched every aspect of mundane life. Masks limited facial expression. Real-life distancing practices meant that the basic engine of sitcoms — people in a room or a bar or an office, talking — was now fraught with angst.Very occasionally, series have managed to capture this reality, as in the second and final season of HBO’s naturalistic comedy “Betty,” whose young characters skateboarded through pandemic-era New York in various states of matter-of-fact maskedness.The remake of “Scenes From a Marriage” split the difference oddly, opening with the fourth-wall-breaking image of the cast and crew working under Covid protocols, then letting its domestic dissolution play out sans masks. More often, TV has breezed past the situation, or wished it away. As long as a year ago, series were declaring early victory over Covid. NBC’s “Mr. Mayor,” which premiered last January, starred Ted Danson as the mayor of Los Angeles, a job in which managing public health is not a small detail. The pilot yada-yadas the pandemic away by having him mention that “Dolly Parton bought everyone the vaccine.” (A later episode does involve a lice outbreak.)To its credit, a series like “And Just Like That” is at least trying to acknowledge the pandemic, rather than shunt it offscreen. It just does so in the past tense.The Peloton on which Mr. Big (Chris Noth) takes his fateful last ride was a habit many other shut-ins of a certain income acquired during lockdown, which was also when he and Carrie began their evening ritual of listening to vinyl LPs. Anthony (Mario Cantone) runs a bakery, the offshoot of one more Covid-acquired sourdough hobby. And when Carrie calls Miranda out for her drinking in a recent episode, Miranda shoots back: “I am drinking too much. Yes. We all were in the pandemic, and I guess I just kept going.” Make mine a double.There’s a note of wistful, wishful thinking in all this retconning of reality — would that we could write a time jump into our own scripts! But there’s also the simple matter of timing. TV generally works on a faster schedule than movies or books, but it’s not instantaneous (and shooting during Covid tends to take longer).So TV creators — suddenly conscripted, like educators and restaurant managers, into making public-health decisions they never expected to be part of the job description — have been left to guess at Covid’s future like a hapless pop culture C.D.C.In some cases, what’s onscreen now is a time capsule from the heady early days of vaccine optimism. The post-Covid “Curb” season wrapped production a few mutations ago, in May, when the virus seemed to be fizzling into oblivion. (The executive producer Jeff Schaffer told The Hollywood Reporter that the season takes place “Right now, if everyone had the brains to get vaccinated.”) A “comfy chic” challenge in the newest “Project Runway” season, produced in spring, had contestants adapt “those awful couch clothes that we’ve all been living in for over a year,” presumably for a post-Covid future.This week’s season premiere of “This Is Us” suggests that the show has moved past the pandemic.Ron Batzdorff/NBC“South Park,” which released a two-movie “Post Covid” special on Paramount+ in November and December, has one of the quickest turnaround times in TV — the first installment was released just as Omicron was discovered and the second worked in a reference to the variant. But it put the “post” in its “Post Covid” premise by using time travel and alternate reality to depict a future in which humanity had — well, almost — beaten the virus. (Maybe the most far-fetched twist is its resolution, in which, with the series’s frustrating both-sidesing, vaxxers and antivaxxers shower each other with apologies for getting so worked up during the plague years.)Still, it’s striking that TV, whose strength is the ability to stay on top of the moment, has generally worked so hard to avoid the biggest thing to happen to its collective audience in the past two years. You could easily imagine face masks becoming a staple, even a cliché, of period dramas some day — a visual shorthand for “the turbulent days of 2020” the way a shot of the corner of Haight and Ashbury says “the ’60s” — even as future rerun-watchers puzzle at why they’re nowhere to be found in the TV of our own time.Maybe it’s only fitting that TV producers should muddle through this garbage storm like everyone else, unsure what the rules will be by airtime, wishing they knew where the pandemic fell on the spectrum between temporary emergency and permanent way of life. And I’m sure plenty of viewers would rather be reminded of anything else.But you’re reminded anyway, if only by the twinge of uncanniness from seeing TV characters act as if the pandemic were history, even as you’re still trying to get your hands on rapid antigen tests. I bet Albert Brooks has a ton of them. More

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    Sardi’s Is Back After 648 Days, Its Fortunes Tied to Broadway

    The caricatures are back up. But many shows are canceling performances just as Sardi’s reopens, a hurdle for a restaurant catering to the theater crowd.It felt sort of like old times, the other night at Sardi’s.Joe Petrsoric, back in his familiar red jacket, was lining up martini glasses at the second floor bar where he has worked since arriving from Yugoslavia in 1972. Manning the front door, his traditional dark suit now accessorized with a face mask, was Max Klimavicius, who started working in the kitchen in 1974 after immigrating from Colombia; he now runs the place.It had been 648 days since Sardi’s, a watering hole so closely entwined with Broadway that it was name-checked in the Rodgers and Hart song “The Lady Is a Tramp,” last served its cannelloni au gratin. And now, on the long night of the winter solstice, the oft-imperiled Main Stem mainstay with caricature-covered walls was ready to try again.The timing is nerve-racking. The Omicron variant is rampaging through New York City, wreaking havoc in the theater industry.There were 33 Broadway shows scheduled to perform Dec. 21, which Mr. Klimavicius chose for a soft reopening with limited hours, a limited menu and reduced capacity. But so many actors and crew members are now testing positive for the coronavirus that only 18 shows actually took the stage that night, and one of those made it to curtain only because the playwright grabbed a script and went on to replace an ailing performer.“The place has to live,” said Mr. Klimavicius, who greeted customers like the long-lost friends many of them were, but also helped make sure they had proof of vaccination. “It’s part of the fabric.”The restaurant is a combination of Broadway commissary and tourist magnet. As it reopened, the producer Arthur Whitelaw, who still remembers a childhood visit to Sardi’s more than seven decades ago (his parents were taking him to a new musical called “Oklahoma!”), settled into a cozy corner from which he could survey the room. A few tables away sat four friends from The Villages, the fast-growing retirement community in Florida, who were in town to see “To Kill a Mockingbird” on their annual Broadway trip.The restaurant’s owners did a substantial rehabilitation of the four-story eatery this year, but are hoping no one will notice, because Sardi’s customers are tradition-bound.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesThe work was made possible in part by help from the Shubert Organization, which owns the building, and in part with a large grant from a federal government program designed to provide emergency assistance to restaurants and bars affected by the pandemic. Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesBroadway is a small town, but a big business — in 2018-2019, the last full season before the pandemic, 14.8 million people saw a show, spending $1.8 billion on tickets. Many of those patrons also spent money at hotels, shops, and at restaurants like Sardi’s — a symbiotic, and symbolic, economic relationship that is essential to Times Square and the city at large.“Sardi’s is a symbol of Broadway and the Broadway scene, and it’s been closed for far too long,” said Tom Harris, the president of the Times Square Alliance, which represents a theater-dependent neighborhood that occupies 0.1 percent of the city’s land mass, but contributes 15 percent of its economic output. With New York’s business districts threatened by remote work, and its brick-and-mortar stores by e-commerce, in-person experiences like live theater and dining are more important than ever.Times Square is still in recovery mode. “Office workers are coming back slower than anyone would have expected or wanted — occupancies are about 30 percent — and about 77 percent of businesses are open,” Mr. Harris said. “We still have a ways to go.”Sardi’s, which has been operating on West 44th Street since 1927, employed nearly 130 people during peak seasons before the pandemic arrived; it’s restarting with 58.The restaurant has weathered its share of challenges — booms, busts, and bankruptcy. It has been popular and it has been passé, but it has always been there, known more for its caricatures than its cuisine, drawing a mix of industry insiders and theater-loving visitors to eat, drink, kibitz and commiserate.It was established by Vincent Sardi Sr., who in 1947, at the very first Tony Awards, won a special prize “for providing a transient home and comfort station for theater folk.” Mr. Klimavicius is now the majority owner.Sardi’s has about 1,200 caricatures of famous people who have eaten in the restaurant, most of whom are connected to the theater industry. About 900 are on display at any given time. Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesThe original caricature of Barbra Streisand was stolen, so now her image is the only one screwed into the wall, keeping watch over the empty dining room throughout the shutdown.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesHabitués understand the risks now faced not only by Sardi’s, but by the industry, the neighborhood, and the city.“We haven’t proven that the pandemic is over, and that everything is not going to fail,” said Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, who likes to transact business at the upstairs bar while shows are running and the room is quiet. “But then, I grew up in California where the ground shook all the time and you never knew if your whole house was going to collapse on you, so I see it differently.”Sardi’s began the pandemic, appropriately, with a moment of high drama: On March 12, 2020, just moments after agreeing to shut down all 41 theaters, a group of Broadway bigwigs gathered at the bar to drown their sorrows. They ate, they drank, they hugged. Then many of them got the coronavirus.Among the industry gatekeepers who fell ill — with, to be sure, no way of knowing how — was Robert E. Wankel, the chairman and chief executive of the Shubert Organization, which has 17 Broadway theaters, and which is the restaurant’s landlord. On Tuesday, Mr. Wankel was there again, happily holding court over a vodka tonic and relentlessly bullish on Sardi’s, where he has been coming for 50 years, and lunches three times a week.“Sardi’s is going to do very well,” he said, “now that the theater is back.”Max Klimavicius, who grew up in Colombia, started working at Sardi’s in 1974 as an expediter in the kitchen. Now he owns the place.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesAmong the restaurant’s most longstanding patrons: Arthur Whitelaw, a producer whose parents first brought him to Sardi’s in the 1940s. On the first night back, Whitelaw had a pre-theater dinner with his producing partner, Ruby Persson.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesSardi’s has been a part of Broadway longer than some theaters, and has become part of the industry’s lore. As a line in “The Lady is a Tramp” has it: “The food at Sardi’s is perfect, no doubt / I wouldn’t know what the Ritz is about.” Alice Childress mentions it in her play, “Trouble in Mind,” now being staged on Broadway, while in the musical “The Producers,” Mel Brooks has a would-be showman dream of “lunch at Sardi’s every day.”Over the years, the restaurant has hosted luminaries from Eleanor Roosevelt to Ethel Merman, scads of Tony winners, Oscar winners and even, once a year, the dog that wins the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “I went there with Elizabeth Taylor, for God’s sake,” said Charlotte Moore, the artistic director of Irish Repertory Theater.Among its current boldfaced regulars: the designer Michael Kors, who created a Sardi’s-themed cashmere sweater for Bergdorf Goodman (selling for $990).“When I walk into Sardi’s I feel like I’m living in ‘All About Eve’,” he said. “I know Times Square needs to come back, and I know Sardi’s needs to come back.”Joe Petrsoric has been working the bar at Sardi’s since 1972. “What am I going to do at home?”, he asked.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesAlthough the dining room and bar will look quite familiar to Sardi’s regulars — polished but unchanged — the kitchen was completely overhauled in order to modernize it, and some equipment has yet to arrive because of supply chain woes.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesSardi’s is among the last Broadway institutions to resume operations.Since June, 39 Broadway shows have begun performances, the TKTS booth is once again selling discounted tickets, and other industry watering holes, like Joe Allen and Bar Centrale, have long since reopened.But for months Sardi’s remained shuttered, with an eerie menu in the window still listing the specials for March 13, 2020: a tasting of five cheeses, meatballs over bucatini, sautéed sea scallops.Early in the pandemic, Mr. Klimavicius, like many, had his doubts — theater was dark, Midtown was dead, everything seemed uncertain. But this June, buoyed by $4.5 million from the federal government’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund, he began overhauling the space — redoing the kitchen, the gas lines, the ventilation, and the wiring, among other things — hoping to modernize it in a way that no one would notice. People who love Sardi’s are, to put it mildly, change-averse.“I was concerned when I heard ‘renovation’,” said Andrea Ezagui, a Sardi’s regular from Long Island, who showed up at 4 p.m. — the moment it reopened — and immediately repaired to the bar upstairs, where she celebrated with champagne and friends. “They kept it the way it should be,” she said, “a little piece of heaven on Broadway.”The restaurant’s famous caricatures came off their picture ledges for the restoration — all but one, that is. Barbra Streisand has the only caricature screwed to the wall, because fans stole the original; so now she remains, irremovable, with her admonition “Don’t steal this one” inscribed above her signature.On a recent afternoon, Mr. Klimavicius and his crew set about putting the hundreds of caricatures back up, starting with one of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a good friend of the house.”As he settled into his domain on the second floor, Mr. Petrsoric, the bartender, was clearly relieved to be back on the job, after spending too many months in Mamaroneck, N.Y., riding a stationary bike and, by his own account, going crazy. “What am I going to do at home?” he said. “I love people. And think about 50 years behind the bar. You know how many people I know?”He started by mixing a Belvedere martini, a cosmopolitan and a lemon drop. “This is unbelievable,” he marveled. “But you know, it takes me one hour, and you’re back to normal.” More

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    ‘Reopening Night’ Review: The Show Goes On

    This HBO documentary goes behind the scenes of the Public Theater’s post-shutdown, modern adaptation of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” featuring an all-Black cast.Rudy Valdez’s documentary, “Reopening Night,” takes viewers behind the scenes of “Merry Wives,” the Public Theater’s first production after the coronavirus pandemic shut down Broadway and other venues until earlier this year.The documentary, which is streaming on HBO, shows the difficulties of mounting a show outdoors while contending with the ever-looming threat of coronavirus: A cast member tests positive, the weather leads to cancellations, and the set pieces are constantly at risk of water damage if it rains.“Merry Wives,” a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” was staged last summer as part of the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park program. The play, which was set in South Harlem, included an all-Black cast.So many things can and do go wrong, but this production diary’s most intriguing element is the way it considers the value of art at a time when the country seems to be on fire. Shakespeare feels “frivolous,” says one of the cast members, in the face of a national health crisis, protests against police brutality and calls for racial justice.Interviews with the members of the cast, crew and staff — like the playwright Jocelyn Bioh (who adapted the play), the Public’s managing director, Jeremy Adams, and the “Merry Wives” director, Saheem Ali — reveal complex and deeply personal reasons for such devotion to the theater.There would seem to be “a chasm between people of color and Shakespeare,” but many of the performers find his work particularly suited to experimentations with language and the expression of diverse lineages. “Merry Wives” is a showcase for the possibilities of theatrical adaptation.But there’s nothing fresh about the execution, and Valdez’s inspirational tone can feel overly saccharine. Nevertheless, “Reopening Night” should offer a certain kind of satisfaction for those among us who’ve waited for the return of live theater with jittery anticipation.Reopening NightNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. Watch on HBO platforms. More

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    American Ballet Theater Plans a Return to Met Opera Stage

    After repeated delays caused by the pandemic, the company plans to perform at the opera house next summer for the first time in three years.After repeated delays brought by the pandemic, American Ballet Theater plans to return to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House next summer for the first time in three years, the company announced on Thursday.Ballet Theater will present a five-week season starting in June that features staples of the repertoire, like “Don Quixote” and “Swan Lake,” as well as new works, including Alexei Ratmansky’s “Of Love and Rage” and a new ballet by Alonzo King, his first for the company.The company’s leaders hope the return to the Met will mark a return to normalcy after the coronavirus forced the cancellation of two seasons and cost Ballet Theater millions of dollars in anticipated ticket revenue and touring fees.“We need really to be the antidote to the craziness out there,” Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, said in an interview. “We represent human excellence — what the human being can achieve as a creative being. The world needs that.”McKenzie said that the recent spread of new variants of the virus was worrisome, but that the company had shown it could safely host performances by maintaining strict rules, including a vaccine mandate for audience members and performers.“What we’re getting to realizing is that we just have to plan for these protocols for the rest of our lives and don’t even think it’s going to get better,” McKenzie said. “And then it will be a wonderful surprise when it does.”The season opens June 13 with a gala performance of “Don Quixote,” featuring a different lead cast in each act. Two other full-length ballets will be presented: the Tchaikovsky classic “Swan Lake,” a staging by McKenzie after Petipa; and Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set to Prokofiev.The season also includes the New York premiere of “Of Love and Rage,” a new evening-length ballet, which was originally set to debut in 2020. The new dance by King is set to music by the jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran.Also on the calendar are George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations” and Jessica Lang’s “ZigZag,” set to songs recorded by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, which Ballet Theater featured at its fall gala.The coming year will be one of transition for Ballet Theater. In January, Janet Rollé, general manager of Beyoncé’s entertainment firm, will assume the role of chief executive and executive director.McKenzie will step down at the end of next year after three decades as artistic director. He said he hoped a successor would be named before the summer season. More

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    ‘Encanto’ Reaches No. 1, but Moviegoers Are Tough to Lure Back

    No simultaneous streaming: “Encanto” or “House of Gucci” could only be seen in theaters this weekend. Even still, some viewers stayed home.Hollywood has stopped running from the pandemic: For the first time since March 2020, movie theaters had a wide array of new films for exclusive screening over the holiday weekend. And studios did not hedge their bets by offering simultaneous streaming options. To see the gloriously reviewed “Encanto,” the campy crime drama “House of Gucci” or the latest installment in the “Resident Evil” science-fiction action franchise, you had to leave the sofa, just like in the old days.But some moviegoers are proving very difficult to lure back.“Encanto,” an original Disney animated musical about a gifted family in Colombia, took in $40.3 million at 3,980 theaters in North America between Wednesday and Sunday. That total, which was enough for No. 1, equated to about 3.7 million patrons, or about 35 percent of the available seats, according to Steve Buck, the chief strategy officer for EntTelligence, a research firm. Ticket buyers gave the film an A grade in CinemaScore exit polls.In wide release outside the United States, with the notable exceptions of China and Australia, “Encanto” collected an additional $29.3 million. “It may take some time for people to discover ‘Encanto’ through word of mouth and reviews,” Disney said in a results email on Sunday, referring to audiences overseas, where the weekend was not a holiday. News of the Omicron variant may have dented European turnout, box office analysts said.Disney had hoped that the family audience was finally ready to return to theaters on a vast scale for “Encanto.” DisneyDisney, which spent roughly $175 million to make “Encanto,” not including tens of millions in marketing costs, had hoped that the family audience was finally ready to return to theaters on a vast scale. Children as young as five became eligible for coronavirus vaccinations in the United States on Nov. 2. For the first time this year, Disney did not send reporters a prerelease advisory about poor market conditions.“This is a fair opening by pandemic standards, and a weak opening by Disney historical standards,” David A. Gross, who runs the film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research, said in an email on Sunday.“Encanto” features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose music helped Disney’s animated “Moana” sell $82.1 million in tickets during the five-day Thanksgiving period in 2016. In part because studios have routed animated films away from theaters and toward streaming services — Pixar’s “Luca” played exclusively on Disney+ in the United States over the summer — the genre accounts for one of the bigger pieces of the box office that has been lost during the pandemic. In 2019, animated wide releases collected $4.6 billion worldwide. Mr. Gross estimated that animation will finish this year with about $1.65 billion in ticket sales, a decline of about 64 percent.Lady Gaga in the crime thriller “House of Gucci.”Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/United ArtistsDomestic ticket sales for “Encanto” nonetheless set a pandemic-era record for an animated film. That glory is somewhat hollow, given that every other major animated film since March 2020 has been released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services. (They have included “The Boss Baby: Family Business” from Universal and “Paw Patrol: The Movie” from Paramount.) “Encanto” is scheduled to arrive on Disney+ on Dec. 24.The ultimate performance of “Encanto,” both in theaters and on Disney+, is likely to inform Disney’s release plans for animated films well into the coming year. “Most of the franchises that we’ve had at the Walt Disney Company have been built through the theatrical exhibition channel of distribution,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, told analysts on an earnings-related conference call on Nov. 10. “At the same time, we’re watching very, very carefully different types of movies to see how the different components of the demographics of that market come back.”Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More