At the Broadway League Conference: Day 1/The Emotion of Broadway

Too often, as Producers, we focus on the flaws of marketing Broadway.  (Frankly, too often, as People, we focus on the flaws of everything!)

So this story from Sandy Block, Chief Creative Officer of Super Power Serino Coyne on the first day of the Broadway League conference, was a rare positive look at our assets, instead of our liabilities.

Once upon a time, while Sandy was teaching a marketing class at NYU, a student asked why, with the challenges of Broadway’s limited distribution channels, its high prices, the strangling costs of the NY Times, we even bothered trying to advertise The Fabulous Invalid.

Sandy stopped the class and, like all smart marketers do, did some testing and took a survey.

He asked the class to raise their hands if they remembered the first movie they ever saw.

A few hands were raised.

Then he asked the class to raise their hands if they remembered the first Broadway show they ever saw.

ALL of the hands went up.

There’s a highly emotional experience connected with Broadway; a passion that can be turned into profit . . . and that was the subject of today’s session speech by Alan Zorfas of BrandIformatics, a company that measures the emotion connected to industries and companies.

So thanks to Sandy and companies like BI, we know that Broadway is highly emotional.

Now the real question is, how can we capitalize on that?

Let’s all take Sandy’s poll:

Can you remember your first movie and your first show without spending too much time thinking about it?

Tell us below.

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Speaking of Broadway being emotional, click here to hear Patti Lupone get all emo on a unofficial photographer during her final performance of Gypsy.

If she got this mad at the photographer, imagine what she said when she found out the whole show was recorded by someone else . . . and put on YouTube!

  • First movie, no. First show, yes. The Rothschilds. Approx 1971, Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. I still even remember how the set was designed.

  • I’m not entirely sure what my first movie was…but show…Yes!
    I saw “Cats” at Dallas Summer Musicals…and then years later “Les Miserables” on Broadway with Gary Morris. It was like I’d finally reached Mecca.
    A decade later, I made “mecca” my home.

  • Kevin says:

    But is it emotion or scarcity that allows us to remember our first “show”?
    I remember my first time having caviar. Certainly not mac & cheese. Does this mean caviar is emotional? That caviar is intrinsically more emotional than macaroni? I wouldn’t say so. Just as I wouldn’t make an immediate jump from remembering a show to “it’s a highly emotional experience.”
    Now, disclaimer, I love and live and work in (for) the theatre, so I obviously think there’s something special about it.
    But I also think that there’s a tendency in our community to think of the theatre as something special (read: better) than the other arts, particularly film, and that leads to incredulity when others don’t share our views. How can we reach people without making them feel inferior – or like they’re missing something?
    Finally, to market based on the “emotion” of remembrance requires an audience that actually remembers. If they did, why aren’t they coming anyway? And how does this help you find a new audience?
    Thanks for the thought-provoking…err..thoughts.

  • Kevin says:

    I should also say this:
    My first show: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Coming Out Of Their Shells Tour
    First movie: No clue.

  • jwa says:

    I agree. The analogy doesn’t really hold up because most of us are dragged to movies long before we remember them. However, the first movie I recall seeing is Disney’s Robin Hood, circa 1973 – and I do have an emotional attachment to the movie, bad as it is. Some other early film experiences, mostly Disney, elicit similar emotional responses, though I can’t say I’m a Disney fan today.
    My first Broadway show was Chess in 1988, and being much older, I would never forget it. It’s also about being in New York for the first time, etc. But yes, it is also emotional.

  • Will says:

    If the point is that Broadway shows have greater emotional impact than movies, okay, I agree. But a survey of a roomful of Broadway producers probably isn’t the best evidence.
    What kind of evidence would be convincing?

  • NineDaves says:

    i remember the first movie i saw. and ironically, it was a movie musical – “the sound of music.” i was 5 years old. we weren’t allowed to watch tv/movies as a kid, so it was a big deal. my father sat me down and told me, “this is the greatest movie you will ever see in your life.” 22 years later, he’s right.
    my first broadway show was “les miserables.” i was 6. we sat three rows from the stage, and i got chills up and down my spine when the actors made eye contact with me. i still have that experience when i go to the theater.
    so both mediums provide a pretty emotional response for me personally. i want to take both in… just in the way that speaks to my budget and comfort level. i haven’t been to the movies in a long time. it’s not a comfortable enviornment for me. impossible to find a seat. obnoxious audience members, etc. i’d rather wait for dvd. or, between you and me, illegally downloading movies. but going to the teatre? that’s an event in my eyes. that’s something i try to do once a month. i get swept away in the glory of it all. it’s just… different.
    to call-back to kevin’s comment: i suppose scarcity has a lot to do with it. it does make it more emotional because it’s something special. but when going to see a show is a rare thing in one’s life, emotional reaction can also be a bad thing. would you walk out of a bad movie and say, “i’ll never go see another movie again?” probably not. but i’ve heard people say that before after leaving a bad broadway show. and believe me – they probably never will come back.

  • Brad R says:

    Don’t remember my first movie. My first show was at Plays in the Park, NJ, Peter Pan.
    Interesting thoughts about the emotional experience.
    I’m not sure about it being more emotional per Kevin’s thoughts above. However, I do think theater is made to be a much more memorable event, a family event that does not happen often (which is unfortunate).
    I think something live and happening before your very eyes, like a big production number, moving sets, etc, is always going to be more memorable then watching film or television. I think most people prefer live over recorded, but live is either monetarily prohibitive or is not as widely publicized or accepted by the majority of the public.

  • David says:

    Can’t quite remember first movie.
    First Broadway Show:
    Beauty & the Beast

  • The first movie was probably either CINDERELLA or THE SWORD IN THE STONE (maybe PETER PAN). The first Broadway show was HELLO, DOLLY! with Carol Channing at the age of 18. I listened to the OBCR for 2 months straight.

  • Joe says:

    First movie I think was Cinderella at a drive in.
    First show was Peter Pan with Sandy Duncan.

  • Grace Toy says:

    First movie: Kramer vs. Kramer (at least first American one, may have seen some Chinese ones before)
    First show: A Streetcar Named Desire

  • Michael says:

    Granted your pool of answers will be skewered… ask this question in LA to a movie audience or the MFA students at UCLA and the answers will be different… but my first movie? Not sure, I think it was Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” but the first play I saw was Frank Langella in ‘Dracula’ and the first musical was ‘Evita” both in the late 70’s.

  • shashan angelsweat says:

    first film: Land of the Giants when I was 6 …but my very first Broadway show was Applause starring Lauren Bacall. I’ll never forget it.

  • Will says:

    Wait, I misread that. It was a class of NYU students, not the people at the conference, who were polled. Sorry.

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