“Closing time! You don’t have to go home . . .”

Sing along with me!

“. . . but you can’t stay here!”

If you work in the theater, then odds are you’ve closed down a few bars late at night/early in the am and heard that song.

With the rash of show closings, or announcements of closings, over the last six weeks, (thanks in part to the tremendous amount of product on the street) I’ve been thinking about “closing times” a lot.

Like . . . when do the most shows close?

And, more importantly, has that changed over time?  Are there trends that Producers like you and I should be aware of as we decide when to open our shows, or are there months when our shows are more vulnerable than others?  (Concentrated closings in a certain month should indicate that business immediately following that period would be slow, don’t you think?)

To get a few of the answers to the above, I went data diving again.  This time, I took along with my trusty sidekick, employee, and Broadway Historian, Jennifer Tepper.  We dug out the # of closings in each month over the past 32 years, graphed them out, (I love a graph) and came up with a few interesting takeaways.

The graphs for each month are below, and here is the Producer Perspective Summary of our findings:

  • In the past 32 years, Broadway has seen the most closings by month in January, followed by June, and then May.
  • October sees the least number of closings. The average number of closings that happen in October is less than 1/3 of the number that happen in January.
  • During the past 32 years, the single month with the most closings was January of 2009. (Financial crisis, anyone?)
  • The number of shows that close in February, March, and April appear to be generally decreasing, while more shows are closing in January, June, and July.

Here go those graphs!

 

Interesting stuff, right?  Do you have any takeaways from the above?  Let me have ’em!

 

(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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Comments
  • Beki says:

    It would be helpful to know how many shows were in theatres to compare. Having a slow closing month when only 50% of the theatres were full is kind of deceptive.

    • Jeff says:

      I was just going to say this! If everything closes in the summer after the Tonys, and no new stuff opens until fall, it stands to reason that there are fewer closings in October. I would love to know what percent of Broadway shows close in a given month.

  • John Esche says:

    The trends (and HALF month figures) are even more interesting than the full month or year figures – clearly fewer shows are sufficiently well financed or “advanced” to fight through the January doldrums to the second week of February when grosses traditionally start to rebound and are shuttering in December if their producers are wise or cautious enough (especially since Giuliani killed the old New Years’ Eve bonanza). I’ve always found the distinction between “come home” holidays (like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mothers’ Day) when grosses usually soar and “go away” holidays (4th of July, Labor Day or the First Week of New York schools) when they nearly always collapse equally interesting – and have been astounded how few producers are even aware of the annual patterns!

  • February is probably low because any show that was going to close, closed in January.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I’m not much of a money guy. I haven’t had a balanced check book since February of 1997. But does this study mean that a show could go on a two week hiatus, much like TV shows do over the summer, giving full cast and crew a much needed break and not having to worry about those times when a star is out of the show for a vacation and the understudy usually means a decline in sales?

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    January is easy to account for. Weak shows always try to hold on through the holidays in the hopes of picking up business then, and the helpful word-of-mouth that can lead to. If it doesn’t work, then January is the time to close. June gets an uptick from end-of-semester student business, and then come the dog days, that kill many shows. If it’s clear a show won’t last through the summer, best to cut one’s losses and close in June. May? Those shows that were holding on in the hope of getting some significant Tony wins, well…if they don’t, it’s bye-bye.

  • Ilene says:

    So, would a good strategy be to open a show, say, in March or April (after the flood of January closings and just after the coldest month), so you can get a good head start on building the reserves through the spring and summer and fall to float the show through the winter and then ‘passing go’ beyond January to rebuild the coffers again to last through the next lull? Seems to me that opening a show in the fall doesn’t give enough time to build a reserve to make it through the slow months of January-March (I agree with the poster that suggested February and March aren’t too bad because everyone who was going ashore in January already had gone ashore!). Open in time to be considered for that year’s Tonys so they don’t forget you (ala Godspell 🙁 …), but not so early as to hit the slow season before you have a chance to fill the coffers.

  • John Fiorillo says:

    Ken – Beki’s comment is crucial. It’s not the number of shows that close in a given month. It’s the proportion of shows (%). It is also important to know whether the shows that close are “new” shows (say, under 6 months) or “old” shows (over 6 months) That would give us an idea of how long it takes a “new ” show to build advance sales that would take them through a bad month or two.

  • Steve says:

    Another variable that should be reviewed along with this data is when the closing shows opened. For instance, I think the reason so few shows closed in October in recent years may have more to do with how few shows opened in September & October.

  • I think John has a good point about the ups and downs of when people take holidays. As I was looking at the data, I saw the same things. It would be interesting to see the data about when Americans take their holidays and when Europeans, Asians, etc. do as, if I’m not mistaken, Broadway gets a lot of tourist audience. Whether new or old, if the people aren’t there to watch, the shows will have a hard time.

    Why not try using the doldrums of post holiday Jan. and Feb. as creation time? And open in March or April? Just a thought.

  • “”During the past 32 years, the single month with the most closings was January of 2009. (Financial crisis, anyone?)”” — This was central to my graduate class musical theatre showcase at circle in the square that year. so much so, that we wrote a parody of every show that closed that year in a medley titled “Another Closin, Another Show.” basically, a send-up marking that we were “totally fucked” for graduating from acting school in THIS economy.” I’ll upload it to youtube sometime to share with you, if you’d like.

  • Jared W says:

    Those results seem in line with what I would have guessed, and I think the main causes are pretty obvious.

    Shows with struggling box office tend to stick it out through December, when there’s a ton of tourist traffic (and I’d imagine a lot of pre-sold tickets) in an effort to make a little more money. The June closings (at least in the past few years) tend to be the shows that didn’t do so well at that year’s Tony ceremony. I was a little surprised to see that May had so many closing, but thinking about it now I would imagine most of those shows are the ones that didn’t get nominated for Tonys and were really counting on the box office boost such exposure would bring.

    Now, I don’t know everything about producing shows and Broadway timelines, but it seems to me that it would be worth looking at opening shows during those months with the high closing rates. The regular theatre goers who see multiple shows a year are probably itching for something new (I know I have been ready for a new show to open for quite some time, and “Bring It On” is getting my money for being the only new game in town). With less competition, there’s more breathing room for a show to build word of mouth.

    I’ve never quite understood producer’s reluctance to open shows in the summer. Maybe it’s exhaustion after the spring season. Maybe it’s a fear that the previous season’s Tony champions will monopolize summer business. But to me, it seems like having all those tourists in town would help all shows. And while a summer show may not have any Tony Awards to brag about, it also doesn’t have ths stigma of being a Tony loser. Just like Hollywood has its popcorn flicks, I bet lighter fare (like “Bring It On”) would do pretty well in the summer months, and wouldn’t have to compete with the glut of shows that open in late fall or April/May.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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