5 Things The Tony Awards can learn from The Oscars.

They say a billion people watched the Academy Awards.  And I was one of them.

Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration.  Over 43 million watch, in real time.  And then many others watch later, in clips, etc.

By contrast, our little engine that could of an awards show, the Tony Awards, gets an audience of 7 million.

Just imagine . . . for a second . . . if we could grab, steal . . . or even borrow . . . just a simple million of those Academy Awards viewers for our show.  What do you think the conversion rate would be on that 1mm?  How many more tickets would we sell?  How many more shows could get produced?

But how the heck do we get them?

Whenever I’m envious of a business model or situation, I try to check that emotion and ask myself, “What can I learn from that industry’s/company’s/person’s position?”

And as I turned slowly green on Sunday night watching the Academy Awards, I had to head off that jealousy at the pass on several occasions, and say, “What can I learn from them?”

I came up with five things that the Tony Awards (and when I say the Tony Awards, I really mean “Broadway”) can learn from the Academy Awards.  So here we go . . .


The interesting thing about the Oscars is that you only get to hear a few of the movie stars that you love so much speak (only the winners, right?).  By having super-sized red carpet footage, we get to hear all sorts of things from the nominees, non-nominees, etc. that are sometimes more interesting than the show itself.  We could use some more red carpet footage for sure.  Show our stars, yes, and show the movie stars that are yet to be Broadway stars, too.  Oh – and let’s get some unique, crazy comedians/personalities hosting that coverage.  I don’t mean one of our regular reporters.  Let’s get someone who’s a show unto themselves.  It’s not a coincidence that red carpet coverage took off when Joan Rivers started doing it.


For the past few years, the Academy has held a contest called TEAM OSCAR that gives college students a chance to appear on the awards show, get a big shout out, and then deliver the trophies to the presenters (no more cliche leggy (expensive) super models).  This year applicants had to make a 60 second film based on the subject, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?”  The winners and the thousands of applicants are not only the future filmmakers of the world, they are the future audience of the world.

So why not involve our future entertainers and our future audience as well?  The League just took over the National High School Musical Theater Awards.  What if we involved the winners of those awards in the telecast?  I’m not saying give them a juicy solo (maybe?) but a shout-out and taking the place of a super model?  Sure.  This is what I call an EAI – Easily Actionable Item – and I don’t see a downside, or a cost issue.  Hope it happens.


So many people tune into the Oscars to see what the eff-ashion people are wearing!  I think we gotta follow “suit.”  That means our actors, directors, and presenters need to go a little further with what they wear.  We know some of those Academy Awards outfits are solely designed to get attention.  I sometimes think people wear the most hideous things imaginable to get ON the worst dressed list.  All press = good press, right?  If I was a press rep, I’d start pushing my people to go a little more nuts with what they wear.  And if I was a producer of the show, I’d push the press agents to push their clients to get . . . well . . . theatrical.


What about Best Musical Movie?  What about Best Filmed Theatrical Experience?  Ok, these aren’t great ideas, but with the number of movie-musicals, and more and more shows being filmed, there’s gotta be a way to tie our two worlds together.   I’m firmly admitting I don’t have the answer, but let me put it this way.  More people saw the Into the Woods movie than watch the Tony Awards.  Where is that audience?


There was some backlash about the lack of the In Memoriam segment in the 2014 Tonys that has been typically a part of the telecast. And while I definitely want more and more performances on our awards shows (because that’s what the audience wants), I always stop what I’m eating or drinking or tweeting to watch and take in the artists and their art.  It’s a great moment of reflection, and reminds me how important what artists . . . and what we . . . do is.  And I think not only does it pay respect to those that have paved the way for us, but it also tells our audience that what we do is very, very, did I say very, important.  Nope.  Essential.


Broadway doesn’t have the distribution power of film (yet).  We can’t be seen all over the world, simultaneously.  So our audience will never be as big, and our awards show audience will never be as big.

But we can get better.  We can get bigger.  Without getting jealous.

What did you think of the show?  What do you think we can learn?  And what do you think we can do to make our show better?


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  • Amy Fogelman says:

    I agree with the second point. If there are not already interns working for the Tony Awards Ceremony there should be. I am not talking about random high school or college kids who just want to mingle with musical theater stars. They must prove themselves through an essay or short film, as with the Oscars that they are serious about making a career in the industry. I am talking about having graduate students and young professions with proven intent.

  • Peter says:

    The the big difficulty with producing a Tony’s television show is that however ‘popular’ you try and make it, the stars on the telecast and essentially unknowns outside of the New York market. Granted, if people watch, a souped up broadcast may entice more people to appreciate Broadway, however most won’t get a chance to actually experience a Broadway show.

    Whereas with motion pictures, most of the public watching the Oscars can go and see every one of the nominated films so they feel they are a part of the event.

    Perhaps a category for Best Touring Company, Best High School/Community Production. Perhaps bring in the West End Shows (like the Best Foreign Film) and include the L.A. and Toronto markets.

  • Roy O'neil says:

    I think Peter has it right. There is just a mega difference in awareness of movies and movie stars versus Broadway. As well as easier accessibility to the product.

  • Doug Marino says:

    Well, she wasn’t even in a movie – but GaGa was likely one of the top 3 moments of the entire evening! I’m not suggesting we just get random popular movie stars or singers to grab the limelight – but maybe a few REALLY GOOD ones wouldn’t hurt – and quite possibly surprise if given a unique opportunity to showcase talent and raise ratings and visibility.

  • Randy says:

    I was actually quite surprised by how incredibly boring the Oscars were…and have been for a while, now. They’ve become very stodgy and humorless. And I think this was mostly the fault of the audience. They seem to not find anything funny…ever. They look bored and even a little annoyed at being there. I don’t know if they are all just super jaded or what, but I loved how the opening number sought to really conjure that childlike awe we all feel about the movies and I thought that would be the kind of thing to really get inside of the people there and stir a sense of pride and community. If it did, it certainly did not reach through the TV screen to us. The audience appeared completely underwhelmed…so then, so was I. I thought it was a great idea bringing in NPH, but then they didn’t let him be NPH. He seemed very reined in to me. Overall, it was a real let down. The energy of the Tonys (TV viewership be damned) is always electric. The audience is still so utterly in love with what they do and with the theatre’s power and significance that the show always at least has that going for it. That’s what the Oscars can learn from the Tonys.

  • I’m a civilian, not a theatre person. But one year someone took me to the Easter Bonnet show. I was mezmerized! Such creative talent on display that mere civilians rarely see.

    What if the costume designers for the individual shows designed the gowns and tuxes the nominated actors in their shows wear on Tony night?

    That would be very interesting for viewers, a great challenge for the designers, too. Could be a real career boost – or disaster if they ended up on the worst dressed list . . . Unless that was their subversive desire (thinking of Larry David here).

    Bottom line: it would be fun. I only saw one Easter bonnet show but have never forgotten it.

  • Steven Conners says:

    Well! It’s not envy. You’re blatantly copying Hollywood. Shame on you. Not original at all. Can’t you think of anything that spells B’Way for the public? In this age of sequels and Hollywood and TV celebs that shouldn’t be in a play or a musical at all, it’s still the muzuma that drives everything. Go ahead and copy the great shit-mietsters, they have it down to a… Oh, hell. I’m on a rant. I said what I said. —sjc

  • Doug says:

    You know what would really be nice for the Tonys to do? TELEVISE THE GODDAMN SCORE AND BOOK AWARDS!

    The Oscars show the nominees and winners for Best Original and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Original Score and Song. So why do the Tonys no longer TELEVISE THE GODDAMN SCORE AND BOOK AWARDS?

    Hey, that’s another thing: maybe the Tonys should have a category for best Original Song. Until then, at least TELEVISE THE GODDAMN SCORE AND BOOK AWARDS!

  • Arnold Kuperstein says:

    Your suggestions will result in CBS canceling their telecast of the Tonys. The dictate from Les Moonves is more entertainment not adding meaningless filler or additional awards. The theatre community should be eternally grateful that the show is renewed by CBS. If you want to improve the ratings for the Tonys do not schedule the awards to compete against the NBA playoffs.

  • Donald Jordan says:

    I think we as an art form and business keep missing the opportunity to engage large viewing audiences because of the mistaken idea that we should not televise shows. I think every show in the Lincoln library should be available…perhaps on PBS (every Monday night could be a omplete Broadway play or musical from past or present seasons) or a Broadway cable channel… If we want to reach potential theatre goers thru electronic media, we must reach out to them. This would help drive up interest. The other factor is, as always, economic…movies cost $8 bucks, not $150 a ticket…and within a few months of its release, even the biggest award-winning movie is available for home viewing. The Broadway world seems stuck in fighting against the technological possibilities that could help expand its audience exposure and reach.

    • Carl White says:

      I came here to post basically what Donald has said so well. But while I am here I will add a few points.
      I would, if a Broadway cable channel was not viable, at least film shows for VOD. Most people, yes, MOST PEOPLE, will never make it to New York for a show, but many would watch on their TV. I try and make it to New York at least once a year for a show or two but I would watch so many more if I had a way.
      Plus, it makes VOD a commercial for the show, if you love it on your TV, it will make you want to make the trip to New York to see it live. You can sit at home and watch bands play shows all over the place, on your TV and computer, but people still crave the live experience. The DVD’s and TV shows and videos just work as commercials for selling people concert tickets.
      I think of Broadway like the horse racing industry which people forget was probably the biggest sport in our country at one time. In the 50’s and 60’s horse racing could have been on TV but they turned the deals down as they thought it would cut in to the track box office.
      Of course, look at the state of horse racing now, the sports that became giant in our society are the ones that were on TV first.
      And, yes, I would do something commercially with the shows in the Lincoln library. It seems like such a waste. All those shows are a goldmine if only as commercials. If not VOD or PBS, make a deal with Netflix or Amazon. Make a deal that Netflix or Amazon or both simply can not turn down and then you have a whole new market of people going, ‘hey, I watched that Broadway show on Netflix, its not what I expected, pretty cool, what do you think about going to New York and seeing a show in person?’
      The bottom line is that it is kind of silly in the modern world that the only way you can experience Broadway in the modern world is to actually go to Broadway. The Travel Channel does not make you think, of well, I have seen Hawaii, no need to go now, NO!!, it makes you want to go!

  • Clair Sedore says:

    The Tony Awards is always the greatest tv show of the year. I was fortunate enough to attend the awards show in person for five years running in the 1980s when it was held in much smaller venues, i.e Shubert, Mark Hellinger, Gershwin, Lunt-Fontanne, and you always felt important, everyone nodded at you, in case you were somebody important, and afterwards we would go to Sam’s on 46th Street for dinner, and got to see the likes of Dorothy Loudon, Liza Minnelli, etc. And the next day we would return our tuxedo rentals, and go to more shows. We would always spend a week in NYC and see 10 shows in the 7 day period.

  • Jimmy says:

    The Oscars are a nationwide/global event.

    The Tonys are a New York City event.

    Until “Broadway” extends beyond the tiny island of Manhattan, the Tony Awards will remain a local event. Expanding Tony eligibility to productions across the country is the missed opportunity. How to accomplish this is the challenge: by production budget? by AEA contract levels? by length of the run? by membership in the Broadway League? by something else? I certainly don’t have the answer.

    This conversation starts regularly, then falls away as the status quo remains averse to change.

    (Just my $.02)

  • Tom Ogden says:

    Bring back the “Best Song” category. Many musicals with mediocre scores still have one stand-out number that will far outlive the run of the show. More importantly, Broadways has to be pro-active in convincing the recording industry that we have music worth reaching a wider audience. Performing those “Best Song” nominees on the Tony telecast would be a good first step.

  • Amazing.

    Many of the comments on this post summarize what should be “Thing No. 6” to learn from the Oscars – dare to dream big. If you set your limitations before you start, you are most certainly going to reach them.

  • Christa deSanti says:

    The perfect host for the Red Carpet is Mario Cantone. He’s funny, outrageous and has direct ties to Broadway. Also, he was a regular on one of the most popular television shows (with fashion and New York City as two of the main characters) of all time and it’s subsequent feature film. That’s alot of pluses.

  • Jane R. Ginsburg says:

    I enjoyed reading this installment. I found it informative and humorous.

  • One thing we can do: extend Broadway: Best Foreign Comedy, Drama, Musical; that is, Best professional produced outside U.S. That should turn TV’s on in members of all nominated countries.

    How about incorporating some Obies?

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