There are a lot of things that are unknown about our future.
Here is what I do know . . .
Broadway will not open with 24-hour notice.
It’s not like one day you’re going to be walking around Times Square and hear, “Hey! Guess what? Six just decided to start performances tonight! Let’s go!”
We’re not a restaurant. We can’t just turn the stove on and start cookin’.
First, we need time to rehearse, put in new protocols, and much, much more.
Second, people don’t decide to go to the theater on a whim. It takes planning on our audience’s part (from commuting time to babysitters, etc.) We need to give them enough time to book their tickets. And we need enough time to let the word spread that our shows are open again. (Cuz spoiler alert – we’d never have enough cash to afford the advertising to spread this message fast enough to fill thousands of seats . . . 8 times a week!)
That’s why I’m looking at the Broadway re-opening in five phases. Here’s how I break them down . . . and the stress tests of the market that will have Producers like me sweating along the way.
PHASE I: “We’re back on sale!”
Phase I will begin the moment that some shows announce they are back on sale and have an opening date . . . for real this time! I’m betting that this will be a group announcement, even if the opening dates for the shows aren’t the same. There are strengths and confidence in numbers. It’ll be a sign to our audience that these dates are going to stick.
I’d guess this phase will begin at least 3 months before the first performance, but more likely 4-6.
And this will be the first BIG test.
Has there been enough pent-up demand in our audience to warrant buying as soon as they are able? Will they believe this date? Will they break the ticketing sites trying to snag a front-row seat for that first performance?
This will depend heavily on what shows are announced. (I’d expect the heavyweights that people couldn’t get tickets to before to make sure Phase I is a hit.)
PHASE II: Pre-performances
This phase starts the day after Phase I and goes all the way until the first performance.
We watch this period very closely when we have a new show . . . which, in a way, we all do! What is the velocity of ticket sales? How many are we moving per day? Does it increase when we advertise? Does it increase as we get closer to that first performance?
Typically this period looks like the front half of a bell curve.
The big question mark is what will happen to those shows that were under sales pressure before covid. What if ticket sales for the industry aren’t what we hope? That would mean these shows would be under greater pressure. If some of these shows miss their Phase II projections, could they decide to not open? (With Save Our Stages funding in place, I doubt this will happen . . . but we won’t know until we’re in Phase II.)
PHASE III: We’re back, baby!
I’m expecting a massive spike in sales the week these shows open up again. Who isn’t going to want to be in a theater that first night? Or that first week? The Weather Channel should start issuing flash flood warnings now for the Times Square area because there are going to be Noah and the Ark-like tears that are going to spill into Times Square that night.
If we don’t have full houses those first few shows? That’ll be a sign that we’ve come back too soon.
PHASE IV: The reviews are in.
This next phase of our return will be after that hype of our resurrection dies down. I’ve blogged about my prediction for our return here and I’m bullish that the word-of-mouth from theater folks seeing shows again will spike sales.
But it won’t all be good news. Provided we get going with more full steam in the fall, we’ll have a big ol’ test right after those holidays are over, as we experience our first January/February post-pandemic.
The winter is a historically challenging time for Broadway. Will it be worse next year? Will some shows shutter quickly if there aren’t enough of our locals to go around (since Tourism is still expected to be down?) Or will it be better because people will still be coming out of their coronavirus hibernation?
It’s not that far away from now, believe it or not, so Producers are probably thinking about this already.
How we get through NEXT winter will ultimately tell the tale on how long it will take to get to . . .
PHASE V: Normalcy.
Ahhhhhhh . . . that time when we return to the normal business patterns and trends of Broadway. That time when . . .
Wait a minute.
That will NOT happen.
This pandemic changed human behavior, consumer behavior, and theater-goer behavior forever.
There is no more normal anything.
Phase V will be something new that we’ve never seen before. What is it?
Got me. It’s an unknown galaxy far, far away right now.
But I can promise you two things.
We will get there.
And it will be very dramatic. 🙂