Will there ever be another Dark period on Broadway?

The last time Broadway had a number of dark theaters was in the 70s and early 80s. (That period is one of the reasons Broadway lost the Mark Hellinger Theatre to the Times Square Church.)

A lot of people whisper that a bunch of empty theaters is exactly what we all need to get our costs back in line. The theory being that some dark houses might put the power back in the hands of the Producers, since we’re the ones who fill them.  Unions, Theatre Owners and Vendors might need us more than we need them.

Makes sense, right?

But will it ever happen?  Will there ever be another Dark Ages?

I’m thinking . . . No.

How come?

Something else happened in the late 70s and 80s that forever changed the theatrical real estate landscape.

The super duper long running musical was born.

When Oklahoma! first opened it ran for a magnificent five years.

When West Side Story first opened it ran for two.

My Fair Lady?  That one got six!

A show running for a decade . . . or more . . . was unheard of.  And then A Chorus Line happened.  And the British Invasion happened.  And then the 90s brought us the Disney shows and Rent and so many more that made the run of Oklahoma! look like a limited run revival starring Isaac from The Love Boat.

What the uber-long runners have done is taken a bunch of theaters off the table. They are simply not-in-play for Producers.

See, there are about 40 Broadway houses.  Take out the non-profits and that number drops to 35. I count eight shows that ain’t going anywhere any year soon, which drops the availability by 23%!  And that’s not even counting any of the shows that just opened as potential long runners (and I think we’ve got a couple that could go the distance).

That means only 28 theaters are in play.  Take the play houses out, and the musicals are left with just a handful.

As long as the 5+ year shows are more the norm, theater availability will be forever decreased, and a dark period becomes a thing of the past . . . which leaves the power with the Unions, Theater Owners, Vendors, etc.

Unless, of course, you’re the Producer of one of those megahits.

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