Broadway’s End of Season Results for 2012

Buzzer sound!  The fourth and final quarter of the 2012 Broadway season is over.  Can you believe it?  Another year come and gone.

And this one was a beaut . . . depending on how you look at it.

Once again, the press release reads that we’ve posted the highest grossing Broadway season in history!  (I mean, we’re getting to be a bit like the Jerry Lewis telethon . . . always beating last year.)  But, unlike Jerry, we didn’t beat last year by a buck.  We beat last season by a few million bucks.

This year’s total take at the box office was a whopping  $1,139,311,457.  Last year, we did a paltry 1.08 billion, which means we bumped our numbers by 5.4%.

You can’t argue with that increase, can you?

Can you?

Well, see it’s not just about dollars.  It’s also about butts in seats.

Did that increase by 5.4% as well?

Unfortunately, as has been in years past, the answer is no.

Attendance remained flat this year, with 12.33 million bodies coming through the Shubert/Nederlander/Jujamcyn doors.

Prior year’s body count, you ask?  12.3 million.

More dollars, same bodies.

Getting the picture?

The great news is that these numbers prove we’re really starting to master the art of variable and dynamic pricing, “taking advantage” of the demand for certain shows.

The bad news is that 5.4% increase is probably coming primarily from the handful of big fat hits on the street (give me a couple of days to dig through the data to see if I’m right), and the majority of the shows are fighting for whatever of the business remains.

The gap between the monster hit and the medium sized show is getting wider.  And as the big shows do better, our vendors and unions have to price themselves accordingly, which means the middle-of-the-road shows suffer.  (Unless we start looking at premium pricing for labor and such for shows that have mastered premium pricing.)

What’ll happen next year?

You don’t have to have a crystal ball to predict that once again our grosses will go up.  And once again, our attendance will remain flat.

How can we break this trend?  No one has really figured that out yet.

But we should get on it.  Because increasing attendance is the only way we ensure we have an audience for tomorrow.


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



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  • Edwin Rojas says:

    You are absolutely correct….need to build the audience for the future. As you noted, “No one has really figured that out yet,” but that is the opportunity knocking on the door.

    Keep up your great blog. Love it!

    • janiska says:

      Looks like the problem of future audiences is solving itself. At this point, boomer baby audiences and older seem dominate the ticket purchases.
      And boomers are a productive bunch. We’ve all got kids who will be filling our seats about the time we’re all too old and decrepit to get to the theater.
      Stress not. I The same problem has confronted every theater in the country for years and every theater has tried unsuccessfully (they think) to address it, but it is always solved by time alone.

      It’s time to focus on developing terrific shows. Forget the audience of the future and focus on those in your audience now. Find the best shows, produce them well, entertain the older people in your audience today and let them worry about the audience of the future.

  • I like the idea of sharing the riches with the unions– if you do well with variable pricing, why not add a little extra to the pot– and maybe the unions can give some breaks in return for shows on the bubble.

    More butts in seats? I’ve got two ideas for that–
    1) Promotions where if you show us your tickets or stubs from that are within thirty days of today’s date, we’ll sell you tickets at either half price or two for one for selected shows within the next thirty days

    2) Shows that appeal to niches that might not come to the theater regularly– I’m hoping my new agey one man musical does that– and I definitely saw a different audience for Fela than I usually saw

    3)For the very wealthy, how about an all you can eat plan, where for $2000 or something, you can see any show that’s running? I’m not sure how you could work it out, but you could– or maybe it could just be a Jujamcyn or a Shubert or a Nederlander pass. (Then the theaters could make it part of their contract with the producers.)

    • Walt Frasier says:

      “I like the idea of sharing the riches with the unions– if you do well with variable pricing, why not add a little extra to the pot– and maybe the unions can give some breaks in return for shows on the bubble.”

      The problem is whenever you give the unions more money, they NEVER give it back. On paper sounds like a great idea. But so many shows fail or can’t afford to run because union minimums are so high. Maybe a lower minimum with a bonus program / profit sharing built in would be great. But I don’t see unions being flexible enought to be so progressive.

  • Ken Wydro says:

    I have been trying to get an appointment with you for a while..I am Broadway/London producer who is looking for GM co-producer on some projects.

    Best way to get more ople in Broadway seats is to have some more orignal, imaginative, innovative product. Like ONCE.. Other stuff is so old and tired.
    I am a Tony voter, and have seen it all. Most just boring and energy sucking. Ken Wydro 212 920 6632

  • What percentage of capacity is that 12.33 million? How much could attendance grow?

  • Mike Rafael says:

    Attendance staying flat and grosses going up during the (hopefully) tail end of the great recesion isn’t exactly bad news. The good news is the best is yet to come. Through Memorial Day weekend, Broadway this year is up over $54 million for the year-to-date (January-May 2012 v. 2011) and over 224,000 in attendance. This means during traditionally the weakest quarter of the year Broadway has added close to a quarter of a million in attendance. This appears to be a result of several factors:
    – the mega-hits actually help expand the audience for Broadway. Shows like THE BOOK OF MORMON and SPIDER-MAN actually play well beyond traditional theatre goers.
    – A strong season for Plays. Three plays have regularly grossed (well) over $700k this year: WAR HORSE, THE BEST MAN & DEATH OF A SALESMAN. A strong crop of new plays (ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, CLYBOURNE PARK) have also done well at the box office (noticeably absent stars).

  • Bruce says:

    Lower the prices and you’ll get more people in the seats. There has to be a point at which revenues will be greater with lower prices and more people attending than having less people with higher prices.

  • Rory Shivers says:

    Saw Godspell at Circle in the Square today. I come from Indianapolis, Indiana to see at least 7 shows each year in NYC. This production of Godspell now ranks as one of my favorite shows of all time. It is truly a shame that the excellence of this production and the skilled young actors were totally overlooked by the Tony nominating committee. Thank you Ken and the entire production team for this fresh and imaginative piece of theatre. Keep them coming.

  • jane s says:

    Understudies should be going on twice a week… the prices could be lowered…. more people could afford to attend. This should be tried.

  • This article says so much. I hope that schools all over the country are taking young students to live theater and teaching them about Broadway. It was part of my life from the time I was four. I was blessed to grow up in Brooklyn and to have parents who took me to Broadway shows from the time I was four years old. My dad got me in. I’m certain that even if my talent turned out to be brain surgery, I’d be going to theater as often as possible as a result of my experience with it as a child.

  • Solange De Santis says:

    I think the higher grosses/same number of people is a worrying trend with the potential to crash when that season comes along without several mega-hits. It’s theater-going that should be promoted as a habit along with promoting a single show experience.

    Similar to Bobbie Horowitz’ post, I experienced my first Broadway show at the age of seven (the original production of My Fair Lady) and was totally hooked from that moment on.

    Producers can’t go wrong with family-friendly information on their shows’ websites and developing ways to reach out to young audiences besides just doing the eight shows a week. Godspell does this in a number of ways.

  • Buzz Bellmont says:

    What I notice me more than anything when I go to Broadway shows are the huge number of elderly men and women in attendance. What is going to happen to these attendance numbers when these old timers soon begin to die off in huge numbers?

  • Walt Frasier says:

    ONE – Broadway need to do a better job at marketing the “Young Crowd SHOWS’ to a younger crowd. They should all take a lesson form KEN’s playbook with the tweeting etc. How does one get the NON THEATER kids into the shows for KIDS (TEENS – 30yos – Disney does fine with the families)
    TWO – How much higher can the price to a ticket go? I saw SPIDERMAN for $30 and still felt ripped off. $20 for the movie is a better deal and 10 times more entertaining. I sat next to a family that paid full price 5 minutes before me (Saw them coming out as I went in) because they did not know to ask for RUSH. I think they paid $140+ for same seats.
    THREE – Sure the current group of seniors will eventually drop off, but there will always be retired folks looking for culture in the twilight of their years. But if you don’t get them hooked better now they will not be at Broadway in 20-40 years.
    FOUR – Stop throwing crap at the wall and hoping something will stick. I have been dragged to too many flops, and even when i get free tix from friends I feel I wasted 2-3 hours of my time. Higher ticket prices and less consistent productions is a bad formula. KISS! Produce for less. PERIOD. Focus on talent. Develop talent. Stop wasting my time with TV names that can’t fill an off-Bway stage with energy let alone a 1000+ seater.

  • A Contrarian says:

    Why not same-day/last-minute TDF sales? Perhaps a club membership list for online sales of available seats (exact seats) 2 hours before curtain? Why shouldn’t prices — official prices — be significantly lower in July than Thanksgiving Week?

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