Why there could be a drought of new material in theaters around the country, nope, world.
As I talked about last night in my webinar on licensing (which is now in the PRO archives if you want to hear it), the regional theaters, community theaters, and high school theaters around the world, mostly get their ideas for shows from what was most recently on Broadway.
I hate to use a politically charged phrase (especially during this time of year), but I call it, “The Trickle-Down of Titles.”
Shows open on Broadway, shows go on tour (hopefully), then shows go to regional theaters, stock, community, high school . . . and don’t forget the giant global market that is eating up Broadway titles like a thirteen-year-old kid capturing Pokémon. Because NYC is the capital of the theatrical world (I don’t care what London says), the buyers of theatrical titles look to see what we’re doing here to decide what they can do where they are.
But there could be, nope, there will be, without a doubt, a slowdown in the new titles coming from Broadway in the next ten years.
Here’s why . . .
We all know that we’re getting better at running our shows longer, right? That’s one of the (many) contributing factors of the current theater crunch. In the 50s, 60s and even 70s, shows didn’t run for 3 years, 5 years, never mind 10 and 20 years. So that means fewer shows getting their shot on Broadway.
On top of that, even after a show finishes it’s run on Broadway, there are so many more distribution channels available for it (tour, non-union tour, etc.) that these shows may hold on to their rights longer than they used to, in an attempt to get every nickel under every couch cushion in every corner of the country (as well they should).
Fewer shows on Broadway means fewer shows trickling down to the regionals . . . and this is especially true for new plays, as Broadway musicals park themselves in play houses for extended periods of time since the big barns are all taken by the mega hits.
And this is going to be especially true in the next few years. As I mentioned just a few blogs ago, we’re about to put three megahits on Broadway in three years (Hamilton, Frozen, and Harry Potter). Those shows aren’t going anywhere for a decade at least. And if you think they are going straight to licensing after that, I’ve got a theater to sell you in Florida.
Fewer shows, and slower releases. The regional, stock and amateur markets are going to be super thirsty for new titles.
So where do they find them?
Well, here’s the glimmer of hope, my friends.
Broadway isn’t the only place for new stuff. And without the ability to get the latest and greatest title from the Great White Way, theaters around the world are going to have to look to elsewhere . . . like, I don’t know, Off Broadway. There could be and should be an increase in the value of licensing Off Broadway titles. I’m seeing a sign of this first hand in the licensing of Daddy Long Legs, which is already set to play a bunch of big markets around the country, including my local fave, the George Street Playhouse.
Thirsty theaters aren’t just going to give up producing while Broadway becomes a bunch of long runners, “studio pics”, and star-driven revivals. Which means there will be more opportunities available for new writers and producers in alternative markets here in New York.
Unless of course, the buyers all start looking to London.
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