5 Reasons why The Shuberts buying New World Stages is great for Off Broadway.
A rumor hit the street last week that the Shuberts, one of the five families on Broadway and the majority landlord (with 17 of the 40 Broadway houses flying their flag), is in the final stages of inking a deal to buy the phoenix-like Off Broadway multiplex, New World Stages.
This will be the third ownership change for New World in just a decade. It started out as Dodger Stages, before becoming New World (owned/operated by Stage Entertainment), and now, I assume it’ll be Shubert Stages?
I’ve got a long history with those stages as well, having been one of the first tenants with Altar Boyz, as well as running My First Time there for two years, marketing a bunch of other shows, and, of course, General Managing the first Broadway to Off Broadway transfer with Avenue Q.
So what do I think of the keys changing hands yet again?
I think it’s good. Very good. And here are my five reasons why.
1. OFF BROADWAY JUST GOT RIPPED
The Shuberts have muscle. When you own as much real estate in Times Square as they do, when you have as much of an impact on the city’s economy as they do, when you can get house seats to a play with Hugh Jackman, important people like Mayors and Governors and other policy makers take their calls. Commercial Off Broadway has never been jacked before. And now, it’s got P90x-like muscle behind it.
2. CAN’T GET IN TO SEE A BROADWAY SHOW? HAVE YOU TRIED OFF?
Off Broadway has always been the little runt of a step brother to Broadway. One of the reasons it has become more challenging to sell shows Off Broadway is simply because Broadway has gotten so good at selling tickets to Broadway shows. But now, The Shuberts, who also own the majority Broadway ticket-seller, Telecharge, has a vested interested in selling about 1,897 tickets a night to Off Broadway shows (that’s the combined capacity of New World Shubert Stages – which is bigger than any Shubert Broadway house, btw). Expect a lot more marketing synergy between Broadway and Off. It’s like our big brother actually likes us now and is gonna introduce us to all the cool kids.
3. DOWNSIZING WILL BE IN
When we first moved Q from Broadway to Off, it caused quite a stir in the biz. But now, I’d imagine it will be often talked about conversation . . . especially when shows are looking to leave their Shubert houses on Broadway. It could become SOP for the bosses-that-be to offer an Off Broadway stage to a successful show whose run has expired on Broadway. With more Broadway shows Off Broadway, more tourists will come, and discover all the other shows that Off Broadway has to offer.
4. THEY’VE GOT GREEN
Last year the Shuberts awarded $22.5 million to non-profit theater and dance companies all over the country. And, of course, they’ve been known to invest in Broadway shows that go into their Broadway houses as well. I’d expect that they could stimulate Off Broadway production with a little cash infusion as well to help fill their theaters. Since it’s getting harder and harder to raise money Off Broadway since the recoupment rates are so low, their dollars could help a lot of shows get off the ground.
5. WHAT THEATER CRUNCH?
There are a lot of Broadway Producers knocking on the doors of the Great Broadway Oz these days, looking for theaters. I honestly believe that The Shubes don’t like turning people away. Now, they may not have to . . . with the right show they might convince Producers (and the stars as well) that they should play Off Broadway first, and then jump to Broadway when a house is available (and maybe even guarantee them a house as part of the deal).
All good stuff. And plenty more too.
Or maybe The Shuberts will just add a couple of seats to those 499 houses and make them Broadway Theaters. 🙂
What do you think about the impending purchase? Good? Bad? Ugly?
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