The Broadway Theater crunch just got crunchier.
It wasn’t a secret that Second Stage was planning to buy the Helen Hayes Theatre. But since it has been six years since it was originally announced, a lot of folks in the industry wondered if it would ever happen.
And when Rock of Ages took up residence, it looked like the theater might stay on the commercial side of the force forever.
But last week the New York Times announced that the closing of the sale was getting fast tracked for February, and even though the price tag of the building and its renovations looks to be over 50% more than what Second Stage intended, it looks like the sale will go through.
I’m a big fan of Second Stage, and the boundary pushing, quirky new works that they do that others don’t. And I’m thrilled that they are getting a place at the big kids table, because they’ve been producing big boy work for decades. It’s truly awesome.
But, I can’t help but feel a little pang as one of the last two mom-and-pop owned Broadway theaters gets handed over to a non-profit. I guess I just think the commercial side of Broadway operates a little bit better when there are a few more wild card theater owners in the mix. After this sale, all of the other theaters are owned by big Broadway orgs, except for Circle in the Square. Wouldn’t it be cool if a handful of the theaters were owned by independent owners (yes, I’m saying I’d find a way to buy one myself if one became available)? I just like the idea of have some disrupters in the market.
Probably never going to happen. So let me get off that mini soap box and go on to my next point, which is the obvious. As if it wasn’t bad enough already, there is now one less Broadway house available for commercial theater producers.
Remember that post I wrote about how our mega-hit environment has changed the number of new shows that open each year?
There are currently 40 Broadway theaters. 5 of them are controlled by non-profits.
Nope, scratch that. With the new Second Stage space, make that 6.
That’s 15% of our houses run by non-profits.
The good thing about non-profs having Broadway theaters, especially a theater dedicated to new and diverse work like Second Stage, is that they guarantee a season of shows . . . so Broadway can continue to be a fountain of great new plays and musicals.
The tough part is . . . well . . . it just got a bit harder for Broadway producers to get a show up and on.
And I’m going to make a prediction. That 15% number will increase in the next ten years. Non-profit Broadway Producing has become less of a risk than commercial Broadway producing (partly due to the friendly deals they can get with vendors, unions and the like), and there will be more non-profit theaters a comin’.
And in 50 years? Well, it could be 50% non-profit.
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