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What’s the average cost of putting on a Broadway Show?

The subject of this blog is from an email I got from a reader just last weekend, and wouldn’t you know it, two days ago the Broadway League’s Economic Impact report arrived on my desk and had the quantitative answers this reader was looking for.

So I thought I’d share it with all of you!

If you recall yesterday’s entry that detailed the economic impact of Broadway on the city, 2.2 billion doubloons came from direct spending on shows.  Let’s see how that breaks down so we can also calculate the average costs of producing a Broadway show.

The report indicates that in the 2010-11 season, there were 43 shows produced for a total of $209.7 million, or an average of $4,876,744.

Now, there are musicals and plays muddied in that mix, so that figure is a bit hard to do anything with.  So, for the rest of this entry and analysis, we’ll separate the plays and the musicals.  I’ll also be excluding any so-called “Special” productions (as classified by the League which refers to productions that don’t fall under the definition of either Play or Musical).

So, drilling down now.

In ’10-11, there were 15 new musicals produced for a total of $144,900,000 or an average of $9,660,000.

That same season, there were 25 new plays produced for a total of $60,200,000 or an average of $2,408,000.

Now that’s the “production budget”, or capitalization.  What about the second component of every Broadway Budget?  What about the “operating costs”, or how much it costs to keep the show going each week?

Here’s more . . .

In ’10-11, the total spent to operate musicals over 1142 playing weeks was $673,500,000 or an average of $589,754.

In ’10-11, the total spent to operate plays over 426 playing weeks was $118,500,000 or an average of $278,169.

And there’s your answer.

Buuuuuut, let’s just keep going.  Because now I have a question.

Just how do these numbers compare to years past?

Thankfully, the Broadway League published the prior years of stats in addition to the most recent years so we could . . . oh, I don’t know . . . graph out how costs have escalated over the last decade.  And those charts are below:

So there you have it, James K from Illinois . . . the answer to your question.

And for all of you non-James Ks out there . . . there are answers to your questions in this blog as well.  For example, if you’re budgeting a play or a musical, where should you look to land?  Well, the numbers above give you guidelines as where you need to be.  Certainly some shows are going to draw outside those lines in either direction, and being average certainly doesn’t mean being successful.

But when building a model of anything, it’s important to understand what the market is bearing so you can see where you fit in the market . . . so you can market your show to the best of your ability for your investors.

If you’re interested in learning more about the economics of putting on a Broadway show, pick up this book:  Stage Money:  The Business of the Professional Theater.  

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