Is a new Broadway theater a good idea?

Based on the number of likes I got when I Facebooked the news about the soon-to-be-built Broadway theater (2018 anyone?), you all like love the idea.

But is it really a good idea?

Before a new business owner opens any new business, whether that’s a theater, a restaurant or a golf course, you’ve got to survey the market.  What kind of competition is there?  How expensive is it to open?  What’s the population of the community (i.e. are there actually enough people around you to support the concept?)?

Given the fact that we’ve got a line of shows looking to open on Broadway longer than the line at the midtown Shake Shack, I’d say, yeah, there’s definitely room for a new theater.  And as a Producer with three shows looking for a theater in the next 2 years, the idea that I’ll have another chance to actually do what I love to do (produce shows) is music to my musical lovin’ ears.

But I can’t help but remember this blog I read by this Producer fella . . . he’s like 6’0″, black hair, has a last name that also means “sofa” . . . you know the guy I’m talking about?  Just in case you don’t know who I’m talking about, then here’s a link to the blog in question.

That blog demonstrates statistically that despite our grosses exploding all over the graph over the last decade, attendance has remained relatively flat.  We’re not expanding the audience.  We’re just getting more out of them.

And, here’s the rub, that’s despite an almost 100% increase in the number of tourists coming in to the city every year since 1998.

You see where I’m going?  If we’ve got the same number of people seeing shows and we open another theater, do we just dilute the dollars from the other shows running?  So if we’ve reached our audience attendance ceiling, do the Producers/Investors of all the shows suffer just a bit?

Of course, there is the bullish theory that another theater and additional shows are the only way we’ll break through that attendance ceiling.  And I do believe that, to some extent.  Additionally a new theater will provide more work for actors, stagehands, etc. and will juice the NYC economy a bit more as well.

But how it affects the bottom lines of the Producers that will fill that theater remains to be seen.


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  • April Kline says:

    I do think another theatre is a good idea. It does mean jobs for people in the theatre industry (and more). It means that shows that are looking for theaters have another option. As for diluting the audiences of other shows, I think that if a show is good enough or appealing to an audience, they will go see it. Audiences will go see what they want to go see. If a show is not appealing to an audience, it won’t matter if there is one more theatre in this city or not. No one will go see it. I think that more options draws more people and that means good things and revenue for people in the theatre business and this city.

  • Candace says:

    I bet if you design a theater with legroom and movie theater amenities like cup holders and stadium seating, tourist audiences will swarm towards that new theater. As someone who has sat through shows with their 6’4″ son and 6′ husband, valiantly trying to enjoy a show while they squirm in their seats trying to get comfortable, I think comfort makes a big difference to encourage business. My husband and son are not overweight and that is a whole other issue.
    (We all enjoyed Kinky Boots up in the Mezzanine last week, so that spacing was great, BTW!)
    Just some suggestions for your plans and continued good luck!

    • Jared says:

      Agree 100%. Broadway shows are way too expensive these days for guests to not be comfortable. If someone spend $140 on a ticket and is uncomfortable due to cramped seat spacing and poor cushioning, you can bet they will think about that when debating whether to buy more tickets. Since prices are unlikely to go down (which I maintain is the number one reason the industry is having trouble increasing attendance), we need to make sure people are really getting their money’s worth, and being comfortable for 2 1/2 hours will go a long way towards that.

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    It is hard to see how Broadway can expand it’s audience without more seats to fill. That just seems like common sense to me.

    And – to climb back on my favorite hobby-horse – a new theater where it isn’t physical torture to sit through a show would certainly be welcome. Not to mention having to look at lights hanging all over the house, and sound coming from everywhere BUT the stage.

    The newest theatres in NYC now tend to be from the era of Spartan, character-free design, the kind of place with all the charm of a strip mall. Newer theaters are being designed with far more visual appeal, better acoustics, modern technical capabilities, enough restrooms, coat checkrooms, the ability to order one’s intermission refreshments before the show, etc. It would be awfully nice to see what is supposed to be the premier theatre district in the world actually enter this century.

  • Marshall says:

    What if this new theater had seats that were (say) $10 cheaper? Then another theater opened with prices $15 cheaper? Sure, maybe the shows would be smaller, but like the “sofa guy” suggested recently, a great show is a great show. Bring in some excellent product at a lower price. Wins every time!

  • Already a WINNER!!! says:

    I agree with what’s been said, but especially the point about roomier seating for roomier people. Fat people have money too and House Managers are getting tired of having to reseat people on folding chairs cause the theater’s chairs are too cramped. In fact, they should dedicate an entire row (preferable the last one) for morbidly obese and disabled folks that buy seats that won’t accomodate them or their adjacent patrons. And escalators/elevators should be the norm not the exception as people may live longer but they sure don’t climb stairs any better as they get older. If you want that 90 yr. old plus group of theater lovin women to keep coming back for more then u need to shorten the step count for upward & downward. If it’s a new theater then it needs to be built to seat the new America, not the post-war boomers who were slimmed down by WW2 and the Depression. Everything I’ve said is so obvious, but the Shuberts, etc. rather just collect rent and change the carpeting every 50 yrs, what’s up with that??

  • Trevor Chenery says:

    Another theatre seems to assume that it will just be more of the same.
    How about another theater that has :
    * Many more and better rest rooms for customers
    * Improved snack & beverage facilities
    * Better and more modern back stage facilities for artists and creatives
    * Nice showers and dressing rooms
    * State of the art walk-in-booking ticket devices in the foyer – self-servce iPad driven
    * Improved emergency exit in case of fire of accidents
    * The most modern stage electronic/hydraulic stage management production facilities
    * A theatre that can be easily be adapted to suit different production requirements
    Shall I go on?
    Of course Broadway needs a new theater.
    Heaven knows so does London

    Trevor Chenery

  • Judy Yescalis says:

    From a theater-lover’s point of view, the obvious way to expand your audiences is to make ticket prices more affordable. For those of us who are willing to fly across the country to see live theater on Broadway, the price of airfare, a week in a decent hotel with 14% tourist tax (or is it 18% now?) and 4-5 show tickets can cost a month’s wages and is becoming increasingly problematic for this retired teacher/full time artist. The theater kids in our high school used to fly out every two years for a week of Broadway that was the highlight of their entire year, but the cost has escalated so dramatically in the last few years the they can no longer afford the trip, no matter how many bake sales, car washes, etc they manage to squeeze into their schedules.

    I remember a time not so long ago when a good center front orchestra seat was available for $85.00. Haaa.Those were the days;) I just paid $159 for the same seat- one seat, one show.
    While I personally don’t intend to abandon my love for Broadway theater, I make the trip twice a year at most now instead of 4 or 5 times as in the past. I’m sure I’m not the only theater geek in this predicament, and I would imagine if there are enough of us, it must affect the Producers’ bottom line.

    Very much looking forward to seeing Gettin’ The Band Back, btw! Thanks for the opportunity to talk back:)
    Rock on!

  • George says:

    Yeah – what’s with those “Shake Shacks?” – which goes to the heart of the question… my interest in getting a Shake at a place WITH A LONG LINE… is about the same as the 9 outta 10 tourists that come to NYC to see a Broadway Show i.e. why should I pay $100 for a “play” when I can pay $20 to see the Movie???

    On the other hand – someone just re-opened a Krispy Kreme down here – and I waited in line to get those addictive glazed donuts (and never bother to gget a donut at Dunkin… just the coffee! Adn talk about the Franchise that was oversold and collapsed when the Krispy Kremers CREAMED their franchisees by starting selling the donuts at every rest stop and bulk food store… completely under cutting the the $250K investments being made by each franchisee…

    So we talk theatres and, quite frankly I am having a hard time finding the – middle – ground here? The previous blog talked about the Owners “not” opening up their theatres to New Productions (granted – from a Producer’s Perspective – a big PAIN!)

    But here we are presented with the fix – more – Theatre Space to accomodate another show.., ONE more show, right? Is that not an itty biity baby step in the right direction?

    From the Theatre Owners’ perspective – if a show is making $$$ by pulling in an audience – consistently – paying pretty near top dollar – AND from the limited population that is filling the theatres i.e. mostly tourists and most of those foreign – WHY would I want to risk putting a New Show In???

    Besides, isn’t “Bullets Over Broadway” an excellent example of how the Market IS working… I liked the show… but the “audience” didn’t… so Outensy! There is a chance for the New Show to see if it can compete with “Lion King” and “Les Miz” and “Phantom” that’s the business… as I sees it.

    Can not see how ONE Theatre will dilute a market where every other theatre is selling out in the 80% to 90%? All this does is give ONE more show a chance.

    IF the Theatre Owners/Speculators had any confidence that the Tourists would keep flocking to NYC and 1 outta 10 might become 2 outta 10… they would be build 2 maybe 4 New Theatres….

    But I think They and we KNOW that we are just one terrorist atttack… one 2008 financial melt down… one decison to cut QE2ing… away from a collpase of this Market in the City… not to mention more tax the Rich so they will move away and take their income and businesse elsewhere…

    I’d say ONE Theatre is a very sound and safe investment… given the offsetting risks of this audience drying up over night.


  • I think Broadway audiences are not expanding because ticket prices are out of sight! Am bringing my family of 8 to New York this Christmas and we can only afford to see one Broadway show – Aladdin – and those seats are more than $250 each. Years past, we enjoyed at least 3 shows!

  • I suppose it’s whether one believes in Say’s Law, or that ‘supply creates it’s own demand’. That said, I am not referring to the perversion of this also known as ‘Supply Side Economics’ and wonder if such esoterica can be applied to the economics of theater.

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