The revival of play revivals.

Everyone knows we’ve got a theater availability problem on Broadway.  But what’s causing it?

Like most business trends or any trend for that matter, our theater crunch isn’t because of one silver bullet.  A number of factors are squeezing the availability of our spaces.

And I think I just stumbled upon another one.

It’s not a major one . . . but it’s a cause for sure.  And it’s the star driven short-run revival.

Stars have always been in plays, and they’ve also always been in revivals.  But it has only been in recent years that we’ve seen massive Hollywood stars come to town in shows that, when coupled with premium tickets and variable pricing, can outgross musicals.

So, naturally, Producers have been looking for plays to bring back as star vehicles, and Theater Owners are no longer just looking for big musicals to run for years to pay the rent . . . because the right star, even in the wrong play, can do just as much business.

That’s why the average number of play revivals per year is up, and it’s continuing to trend up.  (For the purpose of this blog,  I did NOT include any revivals of plays produced by non-profit theaters, since they have their own theaters – except when Lincoln Center borrows a Broadway house.)

Take a look at this graph of the last two decades.

 

PlayRevivals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the actual change in the average number of play revivals per season over these two periods doesn’t look like much numerically (we averaged around 5 revivals per season from ’93-’03 and averaged about 6 in the last 10 years), but first, one more play revival per season takes up 1/2 a theater for the year.  With only a handful of theaters in play every year thanks to our long running shows, one more play has a pretty big effect.  And second, the climbing trend line is very clear.  And since we have SIX play revivals already scheduled for this fall alone, rest assured that average is going to continue to go up.

Which is yet another reason why that screaming sound you hear is of Producers around the city with new shows, maybe with unknown actors, waiting to land in theaters . . . that are occupied by more and more play revivals.

 

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Comments
  • You make a good point. Of course, the short-sighted policy of tearing down theaters for hotels and restaurants hasn’t helped. If a city just becomes hotels and restaurants for the tourists, what are the tourists supposed to do? Gawk at the chain-store “spectaculars”? That’s Times Square in the 21st century. The theater district has given way to the drama of commerce

  • Scott says:

    Any chance you have a chart of those NEW plays with stars that are only sched to run for the stars sake?
    e.g: All the Way, I’ll Eat You Last, Lucky, Guy, The Realistic Joneses, and, now, The Audience

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    The really sad thing is that there no longer seems to be a place on Broadway for the no-star play. So we get all the star-driven revivals instead, since this is seen by producers as being far less risky.

    Can’t say I blame them, but still….

  • In some instances, revivals of play revivals indicate that audiences gravitate to the familiar.

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