What Broadway theaters give you the best shot at recoupment?

When I can’t sleep, I count things.  So this blog is sponsored by this nagging cough I have and the meds that are keeping me up tonight.

You’ve heard the old adage about real estate, right?  Location, Location, Lo-you get the picture-cation.  Certainly that holds true for theater as well, right?  As I teach in our Broadway Investing Seminar, a theater on 45th St. has got a lot more value than a theater east of 7th Avenue (it’s all about the foot traffic).  But could it mean the difference between recouping and not?

Lots of things go into whether or not a show succeeds financially, but for this blog, I decided to look at the recoupment rates of Broadway theaters.  Specifically, I decided to look at all the shows in every Broadway house since “the year 2000”, and calculate the percentage of those shows that recouped . . . just for fun.  (I wanted to go back further, but the data gets a little spotty back then.)

A few notes and disclaimers:

  • I didn’t analyze the non-profit theaters, because, well, who the heck knows how those shows do.
  • I also didn’t count non-profit productions that played commercial houses or special engagements (e.g. touring David Copperfield), or solo shows (including my own Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, which did recoup).  I also eliminated some transfers and other productions that may have recouped elsewhere first or shows that just opened this season and it’s too early to tell.
  • To determine if a show recouped or not, I used a combination of press releases (since most Producers scream it from the hills when their show recoups), some insider information, and my good ol’ gut.  I think I’m pretty dang close, but because there is no public record of this stuff, (but there should be – read this blog), there is a margin of error of +/- 1 show.  (And if anyone out there knows that I’m wrong – please correct me.)
  • I also eliminated any theaters that have only had 1 show in the theater the entire 10 year period (or close to it).  For ex., The Majestic and its masked man.
  • The ten year span of time is give or take a few months, depending on when a production began its run.

Remember:

  • This calculation is only based on the number of commercial productions that have played these houses since 2000.

So with all that in mind, here we go:

 

Broadway Theater # of Shows # Recouped Recoupment %
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
11 3 27.27%
Ambassador Theatre n/a n/a n/a
August Wilson Theatre 8 1 12.50%
Belasco Theatre 9 2 22.22%
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre 17 8 47.06%
Booth Theatre 13 2 15.38%
Broadhurst Theatre 15 4 26.67%
Broadway Theatre 5 2 40.00%
Brooks Atkinson Theatre 13 3 23.08%
Circle in the Square Theatre 10 2 20.00%
Cort Theatre 16 2 12.50%
Ethel Barrymore Theatre 12 2 16.67%
Eugene O’Neill Theatre 11 4 36.36%
Foxwoods Theatre 7 0 0.00%
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre 17 5 29.41%
George Gershwin Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Helen Hayes Theatre 7 1 14.29%
Imperial Theatre 6 3 50.00%
John Golden Theatre 8 4 50.00%
Longacre Theatre 12 2 16.67%
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre 2 0 0.00%
Lyceum Theatre 13 1 7.69%
Majestic Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Marquis Theatre 9 3 33.33%
Minskoff Theatre 3 0 0.00%
Music Box Theatre 14 2 14.29%
Nederlander Theatre 4 1 25.00%
Neil Simon Theatre 3 1 33.33%
New Amsterdam Theatre 2 2 100.00%
Palace Theatre 5 2 40.00%
Richard Rodgers Theatre 8 3 37.50%
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Shubert Theatre 5 3 60.00%
Stephen Sondheim Theatre n/a n/a n/a
St. James Theatre 6 1 16.67%
Studio 54 n/a n/a n/a
Vivian Beaumont Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Walter Kerr Theatre 10 3 30.00%
Winter Garden Theatre 1 1 100.00%

 

Now what does all this mean?  And what did I learn from all the clicking on IBDB I did and searching the web for recoupment records?

First, I learned not to take a certain type of over-the-counter medication too close to bedtime, otherwise it’ll be 2:16 AM before you know it and you’ll still be working on a blog and wondering what you’re going to do when you’re done, and second . . .

The location of your theater will always matter . . . BUT, it doesn’t even come close to mattering as much as the content inside that theater.  No one thought anyone would travel below 42nd St to see a show, and then Rent happened.  Everyone thinks (including me, as evident by the prologue to this blog) that traveling East of 7th is like traveling across the river Styx . . . but you put the right play with the right star in that jewel box known as The Cort and you got yourself a hit.

So take these stats with a grain of salt (although do pay special attention to the theaters that don’t have much turnover . . . like The Winter Garden) and remember, statistics can and should serve as a rudder when guiding an artistic enterprise . . . but the content steers the ship.

Now . . .  since my eyes are still glued open . . .  I wonder if there is a correlation to the length of a show’s run and the number of wigs used in that show by red-headed chorus girls from Alabama . . .

 

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

—————-

FUN STUFF

– Win 2 tickets to see Follies!  Click here to enter.

– VOTE for Producer of the Year!  Click here!

– Learn How To Market Your Show with Email in the Email Marketing Seminar on Jan. 12th.  Register Today!

Tags:
Comments
  • Lorenzo says:

    Worth pointing out that of the 282 shows you have here, 73 recouped, or 26%. Is that pretty average? And do theaters that do more than the 26% average share anything in common?
    But you are right, for the right show folks will travel.

  • Anecdotal evidence says the average recoupment rate is about 20%. This Authors of this book (http://ow.ly/88rxj) analyzed a 10 year period and found the recoupment rate to be about 33%. I think it’s in the high 20s to 3

  • David says:

    Of course it is nice for producers to return investors’ money, but are there other measures of success than a binary notion of recoupment? Offering more measures might provide investors with a more complete picture of risks and rewards; many investors are interested, for example, not only in getting their money back but in how much they might lose or what their return might be . . .

  • Alex says:

    OMG. I had no idea 1) how many Broadway Theaters there are. I mean, I’ve been to all of them several times over the year, but you don’t realize! 2) So who’s making the money? If this was a business model like say restaurants, how many restaurants fail in a given year? In New York, I bet a lot less than 20%…. so B’way is not exactly a great investment…
    Friends of mine are trying to start a thing where you invest in a “fund of B’way shows” — ie they pick the shows and a bunch of investors go in with them. Looks like no one will make money….or the odds are against it anyway… better off picking one winner (like the lottery) the problem is which winner! (rats, I was cursed by recouping my second show I invested in, which skewed my average, but that show was on the West End!)
    Thanks for doing this! I really appreciate it!

  • Fascinating statistics.
    It appears only 1 out of 5 shows break even or make money. This makes me think 1 of 2 things may be true:
    1. Investing in a Broadway show is a crap shoot
    2. The producers, who won’t even give new writers access, don’t really know what they’re doing.
    Stan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X