Two things that turn me on.

Want to know what really gets my engine going?

1.  Data.

2. When experts from outside of our industry analyze our data.

Ohhhh yeah.  Just typing that gets me all a-tingley.

So imagine how I felt when I heard that Jeffrey Simonoff, a NYU Stern School of Business Statistics Professor (!), had released a study entitled “Broadway Show Survival”, with a headline that screamed, “New Study Shows that a Major Tony Award Lengthens a Show’s Run by Almost 50%”!

Here’s why the article is important to you and me, according to the Prof himself:

“In the Broadway theater business, where attracting the largest possible theater-going audience is critical, theater owners, producers and investors need to understand what goes into a smash hit,” said Simonoff. “This research takes an important step in furthering our understanding of what contributes to both hits and flops in today’s business of Broadway.”

Some of the salient points in the five page study we already knew, like:

  • Musicals have an almost 50 percent longer expected run than non-musicals (i.e., comedies or dramas)
  • Revivals, despite their tried and true beginnings, tend to be less successful than other shows with a roughly 20 percent shorter expected run than non-revivals

But, then, there are some new nuggets . . . including one of my favorites:

  • Higher attendance in the first week after a show opens is a good indicator of the show’s longer-term success

(This one, by the way, ties us closer to the film industry than many of us probably knew – it’s more about the “opening weekend” than we thought.)

So, now you see why an analysis of the characteristics of a hit and a flop gets me more revved up than the characteristics of Kate Upton?

In fact, uh . . . here’s a link to the full study, because I . . . uh . . . I gotta . . . go . . . somewhere.

P.S.  Professor Simonoff and all of your Stats students, if you, you know, need some other ideas on numbers to “crunch”, let me know.  I’ve got a few ideas.


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  • David says:

    Another interesting finding of this study is the weak and sometimes counter-intuitive effects reviews have on length of runs. I wonder what the relationship is between reviews and awards? Anyway, the study may be confusing correlation with causation. Perhaps the Times tends to give positive reviews to certain types of shows that tend to not necessarily be commercially successful–if this is the case, it is not necessarily the reviews, and readers’ reactions to them, that cause shorter runs.

  • David says:

    The way I read the executive summary, the headline “New Study Shows that a Major Tony Award Lengthens a Show’s Run by Almost 50%” is a bit misleading. The authors use nominations and awards as “proxies for quality,” and they essentially conclude that shows that win Tonys stay open because of an “inherent quality effect” rather than a signaling effect. In other words, Tony awards may not matter so much after all.

  • Lynn says:

    Two things about this I find interesting…the first is that no matter what you do lately statistics rule. The other part of my life is bringing arts to autistic children. The emphasis on data from people who nothing about children or education or the arts is rather remarkable. The other statistic this doesn’t take into consideration is the number of shows that sell really well prior to critics attending. Perhaps the end is just to stop having critics and with the vast amount if opinion oriented online information just let the audiences decide.

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