How many Best Plays and Best Musicals recoup?

Can you tell that I can’t get enough of the Tony Awards?

The telecast and all of its post-appearance residue are keeping me up at night lately.  It’ll probably take weeks for me to stop wondering things like, “How much did the Nice Work number cost?” and, “How much did Newsies take in at the box office the day after?” or “Will the Tony Committee reinstate the Special Event Tony next year so Mike Tyson can be eligible?”  (“Oh, please, please do,” says Ken.)

And just when I was halfway through composing Mike’s acceptance speech in my head, (“Big thanks to all the people who had my back at Rikers.   Especially you, Big Bruce.  I miss you, ya big pooh bear.”) I said, “Forget about the complicated questions that I probably will never find the answers to,” (kind of like Mike Tyson wondering where rain comes from) “let’s just see how many Best Plays and Best Musical Tony Award Winners recouped.”

So, I went back through the last 30 years of winners (starting with 2011), trolled through recoupment press releases, as well as variety stats,  some common sense, (Yep, I think it’s safe to put Phantom in the Win column) and came up with the percentage of recouped Tony Award Winners that were commercial hits as well.  (I left out non-profits, as you’ll see, and there may be a slight margin of error of 1-2 shows at most.)

Here are the results.

Of the last 30 Best Musical winners, a whopping 21 recouped, 7 did not, 1 ran at a NP for its entire run, and 1 is TBD as it’s still running.

So, of the yes/no’s, that’s 21 out of 28, or a super 75%.

Of the last 30 Best Play winners, another whopping 20 recouped and 7 did not (these numbers are so similarly spooky to the Best Musical figures, I feel like I should link to this).  3 of ’em were at Non-Ps.

That means the play stats are 20 out of 27, or 74%.

Incredibly interesting, isn’t it?

Remember, the anecdotal industry stats put average recoupment rates at about 20-30%.

So, what’s the big takeaway?

Produce a Best Musical or Best Play, and you’ve got a better shot at making money.

I know, I know, genius.  This blog should be a brain teaser at Mensa, it’s so insightful.

I’m sure you expected the above results just like I did.  But did you expect them to be so high?

And if there is this high of a correlation between the awards and commercial success, could we then tear apart the Best Plays and Best Musicals to determine if there are commonalities that could help us choose or develop projects that are more likely to win? (Average # of cast members, how many are spectacles, comedy versus drama, etc.)

Oh boy, now I’m going to be up again tonight.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)



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  • Adam says:

    It’s all in the way you spin it. An investor just looked at those figures and said to me, “You see? One-third of Tony winners still loses money!” (He insists on including the NP’s as losers because he says “not trying to make money is still losing”.

  • Edwin Rojas says:

    Keep thinking…I like the way you think, and write. I find your thought process fascinating.

  • Laura Vogel says:

    This is interesting, but what I’m more curious about is a corollary question–what percentage of “Best Play” or “Best Musical” *nominees* recoup?

    Your data shows that winners are significantly more likely to recoup than non-winners, but are nominees more likely to recoup than non-nominees? Are they as likely to recoup as the actual winners?

    This poses yet another question, which is much more difficult to answer–do Tony wins and nominations yield better chances at recouping, or do productions that recoup have better chances of being nominated or winning?

    I’m not sure which we, as an industry, should prefer. From a marketing perspective, I’d like to think that the time and money spent on the awards ceremony is worth it–i.e., that giving these awards actually increases ticket sales for BOTH nominees AND winners. However, from a producer’s point of view, it would be nice to think that the “best” shows are those that draw larger audiences and, therefore, make more money; then, the awards are simply a recognition of the quality of the production.

    This might be a chicken/egg kind of question, but I think it’s one worth asking ourselves and our industry.

  • J says:

    I predict those 6 shows of Mike Tyson’s One-Man-Show will sell out fast, and I want to see it so bad. (Who doesn’t love a good train wreck?)
    Maybe Mike could host the Tony’s next year. Now THAT will boost ratings, guaranteed.

  • Ken, truly entertaining. Maybe you should turn this blog into a one man show.

    And if Tyson’s lawyer ever does a solo act, it’ll be called “A Boxer’s Briefs.”

  • Ed Weissman says:

    Ken, perhaps you’ve run the causal arrow the wrong way or the causal arrow can go either way. Perhaps some Tony voters vote for the show with the biggest buzz, reviews etc and that has recouped or is on its way to commercial success.
    In a not great year, a Tony award to a show that is the only respectable choice may propel a marginal show into commercial success.
    So Tony to the show that made the biggest pre Tony splash.
    There are exceptions. Nine vs Dreamgirls. Will Rogers vs Miss Saigon

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I’d be curious to know the budgets of these shows, how long they took to recoup and if they had successful tours. But it’s 97 degrees and I don’t want Ken to get heat stroke answering this. Just a thought

  • Sue says:

    I think you are not seeing the forest for the trees. The shows that recoup are “good”, according to popular opinion. There may be a correlation between winning the Tony and recouping, but that does not mean there is causality.

    A show recoups because it is good and people want to see it, so it sells tickets. And oh, sometimes good shows win awards, too.

    I didn’t major in Economics for nothing.

  • Richard Seff says:

    In the “golden age” when investors could invest small amounts (I invested $500-$2000 in each show, only occasionally more)I would amortize risk by choosing 4 or 5 shows each season. The difference betwen then and now is that one genuine hit out of those 5 would more than compensate me even if the other 4 were total flops, losing their entire investment, and very few flops lost everything. Examples: A “Hello Dolly” returned 1000%, “Mary Mary” maybe 600%. “The Music Man” 800%.”Barefoot in the Park” 1,000%. As many flops did return partial capital, I never had a losing season between 1956 and 1980. I know that was then, this is now, but you can see how now the theatre’s future is in the hand of the giant coprorations, the three theatre chains, and the multi-millionaires only, which may partly explain why the musials today are so much worse than they were, and why almost all the fine plays come from the non-profits, from which they are then moved to Broadway an Tony consideration.

  • Ian says:

    What I’m wondering is which shows you are talking about! Are you allowed to share a list of these 21 Best Musical and 20 Best Play winners?

  • Tom Privitere says:

    VERY interesting. I wouldn’t have thought it would be that high. Get on producing that TONY winner!

  • Ron Emerick says:

    Fascinating data about Tony winners that recoup. I love this stuff!

  • Mark Zimmerman says:

    I recently did some research and found out that out of the top 100 longest running shows on Broadway, only 24 were plays. I would assume that the longer a show runs, the greater the chance it recouped so does this fact mean that statistically, one should not produce/invest in plays as opposed musicals?

  • What about “Best Revival”? Any stats on that?

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