Broadway’s 2012-13 Q4 and Final Season Results.

Put it in the history books, another Broadway season has come and gone.  Dreams came true.  Hopes were crushed.  And that was just on Smash!

Canceled TV show jokes aside, one of the challenges of an industry like ours is putting aside the emotions of dreams and hopes for a moment, and looking at the cold, hard data that our billion dollar industry spits out.

As you know, I break our year up into quarters and every 13 weeks report on how we’re doing (taking a cue from corporate America) as we race towards the finish line.  Will we outgross the year before?  Will our audience grow?  Let’s find out!

Timpani roll!


  • Final gross for the season was $1,138,734,331
  • Last season we grossed $1,139,311,457
  • That’s a decrease of .1% from last season.


  • 11,569,711 people saw Broadway shows in the 2012-13 season.
  • 12,334,312 people saw Broadway shows last season.
  • That’s a (gulp) 6.2% decrease from last season.
  • There were 1,430 playing weeks this season.
  • There were 1,552 playing weeks last season
  • That’s a decrease of 6% from last season.

Oh boy. Where to begin.

Let’s chat grosses first.  This is the first flat-line/decline we’ve seen in five years.  The last decline from season to season was in . . . ahem . . . 2008.  Remember that @%$#-show of an economic year?  Yeah, so the fact that we’re repeating a trend from that year isn’t the best news on the Broadway planet.

Why did we flat line after so many years of always adding to the grosses?  Here’s the thing – several years ago, we got very wise to the variable pricing/premium pricing game.  And we’ve been crushing it ever since.  And whenever you implement a new business strategy, there are significant immediate and measurable results.  But after several years, the effects of that strategy are minimized . . . because it’s not a new strategy anymore.  The market catches up to you.  And your max gain from that strategy is realized.  And unless we start growing our audience (see below), we’re never going to get above a certain gross level.

Now attendance . . . We sank 6%. It’s pretty much the biggest decline I’ve seen . . . and that any of us have seen.  So why?  Well, yes, the Broadway League is correct . .  Hurricane Sandy did have an impact on the season’s numbers, both attendance and grosses (read the official release here)  But 6%?  Even a super-sized storm like Sandy can’t do that much damage.  

This huge drop is more due to the 6% drop in playing weeks.  Less shows = less people.  But, and here’s the rub – do I think we should have had more shows to have more bodies?  Nope.  Because it wouldn’t have made the shows successful.  And I’m a believer in not over saturating our market when we have limited audiences.  And now, with a 6% drop, we’re more limited than we thought.

So am I worried?   Sure.  I’ve been barking about the attendance thing for a long time.  And grosses going up every year without growing our audience is attributed solely to rising ticket prices.  And that will catch up on us.  (Sometimes I feel like an astronomer who sees a comet coming for the earth.)

That said, the drop in attendances is also due to the fact that more shows are opening in the spring.  We put three or four long running hits on the board this spring . . . and that’s going to kick off our next season with a strong start.  Just watch the first quarter report in September.  We’ll end up in positive gains for shizzle . . . and I’ll bet money on it.

And if my prediction doesn’t come true, and attendance drops for a third year in a row . . . which has only happened one other time in 30 years . . . well, then . . . uh . . .then . . . I just may have to hang it up and go to law school.  Ewww.


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  • Melba LaRose says:

    Get out those law books, Ken, it’s going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride. I’m sure you know indie theatre in NYC has folded 26% in the last few years. Many theatre movers ‘n shakers have quit, retired, or gone back to day jobs, if they can find them. It ain’t gonna get better anytime soon and, when or IF it does, it’s going to be a very different animal.

  • Jared says:

    I know it seems obvious, but one of the things I think we need to address is the high cost of theatre tickets. Anyone who has attended the lotteries for hit shows like Wicked, The Book of Mormon, or Matilda know that there are plenty of people clamoring to get tickets to Broadway shows. And it is only a small percentage of the people who participate in these lotteries actually get tickets.

    Now, these are all hit, sold out shows, which explains the high number of people trying to get in. But I think there must be a way to convert some of these lottery losers into ticket buyers for other shows, especially since a large portion of them seem to be tourists from out of town. They don’t have the chance to see Broadway every day, and I’m sure many of them would rather see something rather than anything. To me, the problem is that even somewhere like TKTS is asking for $80+ a ticket. If we could offer more tickets in the $50-$60 range, I bet we would see audiences grow.

    I know the hit shows raise ticket prices once they sell a certain percentage of their seats. What if the less successful shows lowered more unsold tickets the day of? It seems silly for a show to have rows of empty seats priced at $100 or more when they could have sold some of them for less than that.

  • Scott Briefer says:

    Mr. Davenport please don’t dust off those law books. You are, without a doubt, the most accessible Broadway producer – an opportunity for those of us not currently in the industry to have direct access to someone who is and is trying to truly make a positive impact.

    You quickly alluded to premium pricing in your blog. I believe it is the pricing structure of Broadway, more than anything that is causing this current trend. And, I fear, if something doesn’t change, things will only get worse and Book of Mormon won’t be remembered for its content, reviews, Tony, etc., but for being the show that “killed” Broadway.

    Okay, I am exaggerating, I don’t think Broadway will “die”, but you get my message.

    I am offended by the current pricing structure. When someone who used to spend almost all of my non-necessity income (rent, food, etc.) on live performance can no longer afford to attend unless I am willing to sit in the back against the side wall (which I refuse), there is a serious issue.

    Please figure this out. Broadway has become for the very rich and those willing to wake up early, get on a Rush line and be willing to sit in a partial view seats.

  • Scott Briefer says:

    Sorry for the additional post…

    Ken, I want it known that I am willing to pay regular orchestra prices. I just can’t afford premium. Sadly, shows that are offering premium tickets won’t sell you anything other than the first 2 rows or the back and side of the house for what is listed as the “regular” price. If I wish to sit in a “premium” seat for “regular” prices, I have to spend the day standing in a cancelation line.

    Recently, I did just this to see Pippin. When a Broadway loyalist has to wait 6+ hours to pay $150 without any guarantee of getting in, there is an issue. Please note that I have often approached the box office of these successful shows with the flexibility of ANY day (a year from now, how about two) only to be told, sorry we don’t sell anything closer than row L for less than premium.

    I am angry and it is reflected in my Broadway going. I just bought tickets to see Venice and Here Lies Love. Perhaps, I am just going to have to be an Off-Broadway Baby.

  • George Rady says:

    Sorry to be the “economist” here… but there is one little problem with your Attendence $$$s You are comparing “2012” to “2013” dollars… which is like comparing “New Apples to Old Apples” – even the “Govt” rate of inflation (which excludes Food and Fuel – the two commodities at the cutting edge of inflation) – you are talking about something close to 6% inflated “2013” dollars…

    Remember Mom & Pop ARE paying those inflated (QE2’d) dollars for the SUV and the food delivered by Big Trucks…

    If it weren’t for the Tourist crowd, the numbers would be FAR WORSE!


  • Phyllis Buchalter says:

    It might be nice if Broadway put on something that people are interested in seeing. Last Fall we saw “The Anarchist,” “Chaplin” and, fortunately, our “Scandalous” tickets were washed out by Superstorm Sandy. We saw such mediocrities as “Dead Accounts,” “Picnic” and “Grace.” As a matter of fact, the best show we saw last fall was “Christmas Story, the Musical” which we took our grandson to see. If this is the best Broadway can do it was lucky to only drop 6%.

  • Ron says:

    Here’s another problem: This spring is the first time in more than twenty-five years that my friends and I haven’t come to New York City (from western PA) for four nights to see several Broadway shows. The reason: skyrocketing hotel prices in the theater district. We can afford to pay for theater tickets, but the cost of four nights in most hotels has nearly doubled this year. Until we can get better deals at hotels, we will be “missing in action” on Broadway.

  • alex says:

    It’s a challenge. I understand producers wanting to capture the value of premium tickets, because if they don’t the scalpers and others will. And MOST Broadway shows don’t re-coup. So you have to try and make money for your investors. (It’s Show BUSINESS) But – there’s a huge crowd of “theater-ists” who would love to go to everything, we are the true believers, and these days — I’m grateful to the producers putting videos on-line, it allows me to pick and choose what I decide to see. Sometimes if I’ve seen a show before in previous incarnations, and there’s a video – and I have limited $$ to spend then I “get it” from the video and don’t feel I have to go. Videos may be hurting productions of shows that are re-dos. I used to go to everything, can’t afford it anymore when even TKTS prices are over $100, and then when you see something that is boring (which will remain nameless but I only spent $46 so I don’t feel so bad) you get more upset. I’m not sure what the answer is. Because as a (former) investor in Broadway – I want to recoup, but as a theater-goer I can’t afford to go now as often as I like. And though I love theater to death – movies are cheaper… and TV is getting better than 90% of the plays out there, including Broadway (I hated some plays I saw this year Off-Broaday – please don’t bore me) TV writing is awesome these days — And Webisodes now (Alphas!) are terrific, so plays really have to offer something unique to get me to spend $80-$100. I’m not in it for the “stars” I want to see something incredible on stage that moves me and is not like watching paint dry. The quality of theater (except for the new musicals) has not kept up with TV for the most part, sadly. I want theater to be great, and it’s only OK now days. (Kinky Boots is fantastic!! and worth it of the new musicals.)

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