TREND ALERT: What these 3, nope, FOUR, shows mean for Broadway’s future.

I often say that producing a Broadway show in today’s crowded real estate market is a lot like trying to land a plane at JFK Airport.  There are a lot of planes and very few runways, so you end up circling, waiting for something to open up.

The theater owners are our air traffic controllers, deciding what comes in and when.  And what gets diverted to Buffalo.

Since so much of the independent Producer’s fate rests on the decisions they make (and when they’ll allow our planes to land), I spend a lot of time listening to the chatter and looking to the sky to see what is looking to touch down in the not-so-distant-future.

In fact, my assistant prepares a spreadsheet for me every quarter that has three columns:

  • Theater
  • Show in that theater
  • Show rumored (or that I’m guessing) will come into that theater next (obviously I leave this column empty next to Wicked, The Lion King, Hamilton, etc., etc.)

It’s my home-game version of air traffic controller.

I was spending some time with this sheet last week, and I noticed something that made me go, “Hmmmm . . . well would you look at that.”

So, of course, I had to share it with you. Let’s see if it makes you hmmmm like I did.

With the announcement of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s arrival on Broadway next season, I count four . . . four new musicals that are expected to arrive on Broadway in the next 12-18-or-so months that are focused on the family audience.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Frozen
  • Anastasia
  • SpongeBob Squarepants

Four family audience shows.  To put that in perspective, that’s 10% of the total # of Broadway theaters!  A 10% shift in the overall landscape in a 12-18 month period!

(And, for the record, I could have added Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour to this group but decided it was on the fringe so I left it out.)

But wait . . . going back to my sheet . . . we know that not all of those 40 theaters are even close to being available.  The “in-play” theaters (as I call them), or theaters that may become available in the next 12-18 months, only number about 20, which means these four family shows will represent 20% of the new shows on Broadway.

Things that make you go hmmmm, right?

I could go even further and remind everyone that these won’t be the only family shows on Broadway.  These will be adding to the ones already there . . . which will in essence double the entertainment available to the family set.

Want some more interesting stats?

  • Three of the four are based on movies (and the fourth is based on a TV show).
  • Three of the four had animated source material.
  • Three of the four are produced by the same (big) company that produced the movie/tv show (Anastasia, the one that I’m most looking forward to, is the only exception).

The revolution that Disney started 25 years ago is starting to bear serious fruit, not only in the type of entertainment that is being offered, but almost more importantly, who is producing that entertainment.

The studios are coming, and they are bringing their tentpoles with them.  And the air traffic controllers are giving them priority landing privileges.

Can you blame them?  The family audience is a massive one, responsible for the multi-million dollar grosses of The Lion King, Aladdin, and more.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling these shows at all.  The Lion King remains what it is because it’s the perfect combination of incredible art with more than a dash of commerce.  With Alex Timbers at the helm of Frozen, I expect super-chilling theatricality.  And a new Ahrens and Flaherty score on Broadway with a book by Terrence McNally for Anastasia?  Yes, please!  (You’ll notice I left out the fourth show, because admittedly I have my concerns as I’ve shared . . . and that’s all I say about that.)

But you can’t deny that the shift towards family entertainment . . . or shows that appeal to our traditional theatergoer (that 44 year old female) and her kids simultaneously, is something that we haven’t seen in these numbers before.

But we better get used to it.


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  • Frank says:

    If finding landing space is such an issue than logically someone needs to find other places to land. Create another theater district in some other market so that more shows can be produced and seen. If a market is super-saturated, then the only viable solution is to find another marketplace.

    I’ve never understood the logic of centralizing professional theater to one city, albeit a very large city.

  • Not a surprise to me. My faith-based readers (and there are lots of them across the country) have been asking for famiky-friedndly recommendations every year.

  • Sorry..writing on the train….

  • Suzie Que says:

    Ugggh. I hope is a passing fad. Don’t those 44 year old women want a night out -without- the kids? I sure did!! Who can afford to take all the kids to Broadway, anyway?
    Seriously, though, this’ll push the adults to off-Broadway, which might not be a bad thing.

  • Lewis R. Chambers says:

    A wonderful man … one of the finest I ever knew in over thirty-five years of representing actors and writers in this city — was Jay Harnick, a true gentleman who founded TheatreWorks/USA in 1961, and created a major touring company (PLUS shows here in town) for children’s theatre!
    I recall once seeing, at Town Hall, TWUSA’s production of their own version of The Secret Garden, which was easy to describe as wonderful! Toward the end of the performance there is a tense moment when the young boy goes to open the door (established as opening into the garden, but rumored to be a frightening place). He’s in his bed but moves from under the covers and walks very slowly across to the door. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. One little girl, probably no more than seven or eight, had become so enthralled that she was standing, filled with the tension rife in the theatre, in the aisle alongside her seat. (I was seated one flight up with a great view of everything,)
    Everybody in the place heard that child pleadingly and softly tell the boy, “Oh! Don’t go in there!” I thought immediately, “Kid, you’re now hooked for life!”
    Later when Jay came over to where I was seated, he realized that I was teared up. “I guess it got to you, right?” he said. “You’re like a drug pusher, Jay” I answered. A moment when he seemed shocked at my saying this … until I added, “Yes, hook ’em when they’re young”!
    My first Broadway show was the original production of The Pajama Game. I’ve watched (literally) thousands of productions from a seat in a “live theatre” space or in a movie theatre. If you want an audience for live theatre, you’d better follow Jay Harnick’s lead — and remember that to “hook ’em when they’re young”, be sure it’s on material they will enjoy!

  • Judy Yescalis says:

    I admit this sounds a bit shallow, but I don’t know what upsets me more– handing over Broadway theaters to pre- produced media products for kids or being bombarded with plastic Disney princesses and ponies that have invaded every store in town. Give me Jacques Brel or Curious Incident bobbleheads any day!

  • RICK says:

    Ken, I know you can see me SMILING…

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