It was a dramatic, uncertain day in the Times Square area for disappointed theatergoers, who mingled on the streets Saturday while striking Local One stagehands picketed in an orderly fashion behind barricades and declined to talk to reporters. The union had no official comment on the walkout.
No new negotiations have been scheduled between Local One and the League of American Theatres and Producers, so the outlook for a quick settlement looks murky.
The two sides have been in contentious negotiations for more than three months.
Producers and theater owners say they're just looking for a fair agreement that wouldn't force them to hire extra workers they don't need.
Hiring unneeded workers is especially an issue during long and costly process of setting up a show, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.
"While that's going on there are many men who are sitting around not doing anything," said theater owner Paul Libin. "We want to be able to call the people we need to work when we need them to work. Not when they're on call."
"We must remain committed to achieving a fair contract," Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the league, said. "Our goal is simple: to pay for workers we need and for work that is actually performed."
Stagehands counter by declaring their union "is open to exchanges on work rules and other areas,'' but will absolutely refuse any plan that would cut jobs.
City officials said Saturday that it was too early to estimate the economic impact of the strike. Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed disappointment that the two sides couldn't settle their differences without a strike, but reiterated, "The city continues to stand ready to help in any way we can."
The work stoppage first affected "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical," a holiday attraction for families that had an early 11 a.m. matinee.
Parents toting their kids were forced to face the music, reports Miller.
Asked how long she had been waiting to see the Grinch, Mackenzie Middleton of Arizona said, "a very, very, very, very long time."
"We told them the Grinch was sick," said Kim Baumgartner. "What do you tell a kid about a contract?"
School counselor Vicki Michel, with teacher husband Pat, came to New York from their home in Puyallup, Wash., for a weekend of Broadway shows. The three shows they intended to see were all canceled: "Grinch," "Hairspray" and "Mamma Mia!" They managed to nab tickets to "Young Frankenstein" (which was not affected by the walkout) and the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular," and were headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday instead of the "Grinch."
Outside the Gershwin Theatre where "Wicked" plays, Wanda Antonetti, of DuBois, Pa., and her daughter, Sherry Antonetti, of Dover, Del., contemplated where to shop. They arrived Saturday morning to celebrate Wanda Antonetti's 70th birthday and did not know about the strike until they arrived at the theater. "We came a long way for lunch," Wanda Antonetti said.