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NYC Offers Free Broadway Show

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NEW YORK (AP) _ New York made Matthew and Rachel Bentley of Australia an offer they couldn't refuse: Spend some dough and see a show _ for free.

The couple from Sydney were the first to take advantage of a new promotion aimed at sparking the city's economy in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Anyone who spends $500 at selected stores, restaurants, museums or other tourist attractions between Jan. 1 and Jan. 16 will get a pair of Broadway tickets to one of 10 shows.

Armed with their receipts from Macy's, Zabar's, Bergdorf Goodman's and J&R Music World, the Bentleys went to the city's tourist bureau Wednesday morning and received two tickets to ``The Tale of the Allergist's Wife,'' presented by one of the show's stars, Valerie Harper.

``Wow, New Yorkers are really friendly,'' Matthew Bentley said.

Harper urged people to come into the city and spend, spend, spend. ``Remember, $500 gets you two free tickets, but $1,000 will get you four,'' she said.

Matthew Bentley urged tourists who might be wary of visiting the city after the World Trade Center attack to ``go ahead and do it. We're having a great time.''

Cristyne L. Nicholas, president and chief executive of the city tourist bureau, said the agency expects to give away about 30,000 tickets during the two-week ``Spend Your Regards to Broadway'' promotion.

The idea is to support the city's $25 billion tourist industry, which provides jobs for 300,000 people, and promote Broadway during what is traditionally a slow time of year.

Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters, said ticket sales are down about 15 percent from the same time last year, a vast improvement from the 75 percent drop right after the trade center attack.

The shows participating in the campaign are ``Disney's Beauty & the Beast,'' ``Cabaret,'' ``Chicago,'' ``Contact,'' ``Les Miserables,'' ``Proof,'' ``The Full Monty,'' ``The Phantom of the Opera,'' ``The Tale of the Allergist's Wife'' and ``Urinetown.''
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