Theater things that don’t make sense: Vol. 4. Size envy.

Why is it that most of the companies that service Broadway Producers have offices that are bigger than most Broadway Producers’?

Shouldn’t the people that produce the shows be the ones with the fancy addresses and the giant conference rooms and the late-nite catering?

Most of the offices of my peers don’t rival the offices of the ad agencies, the general managers, the accountants, the lawyers, the lighting rental companies, etc.

In fact, the only Producers’ offices I know that can measure up, are offices that also include in-house service agencies like General Management, Marketing, etc.

Unfortunately funny, no?

As someone once said to me, “There’s no money to be made in Broadway.  But there is money to be made OFF Broadway.”

Something tells me that he wasn’t talking about producing shows at theaters under 499 seats.

There are several rational explanations for this phenom, the main one being that it’s easier for those service industry specialists to serve multiple clients, than it easy to produce several shows (especially in a market that doesn’t care about competition).

But we can rationalize it all we want.  If our service industries had smaller offices, then they wouldn’t have to charge so much, and if they didn’t have to charge so much, then our shows would recoup faster.

And if our shows recouped faster, then the producers and investors would be more encouraged to take more risk.

And when you take more risk, everyone gets rich . . . in more ways than one.

  • wwriter says:

    It’s also possible that some of those service providers have had their offices for years and are paying way less rent than you might guess. The size of a person’s office or home in NYC is often NOT an indicator of his/her success/wealth.

  • Chris says:

    Maybe the large office isn’t so much an issue as the “posh-ness” of it all. I think a large office can certainly be a good way to help smooth workflows (who wants to deal with a small office and the cramped workspaces anyway?) but when you’re spending money on stuff your business doesn’t need and then passing along those expenses to your clients, you’re doing a major disservice. It’s already expensive enough to produce shows, don’t throw your own stuff into the mix!

  • I see your point, and agree that “size shouldn’t matter”, but as an attorney in “the Biz”, I’m confronted each month (as I pay my office rent), by the reality that clients DO judge a book by its cover.
    Would you as a producer hire a lawyer who operates out of second-rate office space? Even if he’s really good at what he does, don’t you EXPECT the trappings of a certain level of success from those you hire to service you?
    It’s definitely a vicious circle. Expectations are high, so Service providers’ fees increase, so producer’s cash-office charges have to increase, so ticket prices go up, (or investor’s return drops).
    Of course the success/failure of any show doesn’t really turn on the amount paid to service providers in support of their posh-office spaces. No sound-thinking producer should pay for less than full value from service providers.. .regardless how great their offices look.

  • Cedric Yau says:

    Businesses that cater to clients and have to host meetings tend to have nicer offices. It’s part of the sales process. The perceived quality and value increases with the poshness factor. In many ways, a fancy office is the Tiffany Box that packages a service. There are cheaper service providers, but we often feel better with clothes we get from Saks or Bloomie’s than K-Mart or Conway. (The thought of wearing stuff from last one just made me shudder.)

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