UPDATE: Do Tony Nominators & Voters Forget The Fall? Part I

Back in 2009, just a few months after the world got rocked by the financial markets, Broadway was rocked by an unusual set of Tony nominations.

There were a number of significant shows that had opened in the fall of that season, and several of them were missing from the list.

At first, it just looked like a one-off aberration, but it got me thinking.  Is a Broadway show more likely to get a nomination . . . and a win . . . if it opens in the spring versus the fall?

With that question in the back of my mind, we did some digging.  And, well, we proved that the answer was an undeniable yes, which I wrote about here.

It has been seven years since I released that report . . . and, well, statistics are like the clothes in your closet.  They gotta be updated every so often if you wanna stay current.

So, back we went into the annals of Tony nomination and winner history to determine if shows that opened in the spring (and the lead performers in those shows) had an advantage solely because of the time of the show’s opening.

And, we compared our results from 2009-2015 digging to the results from the original blog.

Here we go . . .

Nominations first . . .

Best Musical
  • 64% of the nominees from 1989-2008 opened in the spring
  • 68% of the nominees from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Best Musical Revival
  • 60% of the nominees from 1994-2008 opened in the spring
  • 67% of the nominees from 2009-2016 opened in the spring
Best Play
  • 72% of the nominees from 1989-2008 opened in the spring
  • 79% of the nominees from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Best Play Revival
  • 68% of the nominees from 1994-2008 opened in the spring
  • 64% of the nominees from 2009-2016 opened in the spring
Best Actor/Actress in a Musical
  • 60% of the nominees from 1989-2008 were from spring shows
  • 68% of the nominees from 2009-2015 were from spring shows
Best Actor/Actress in a Play
  • 71% of the nominees from 1989-2008 were from spring shows
  • 78% of the nominees from 2009-2015 were from spring shows

Need a second to go back?  Go ahead.  Take your time.  But however much time you take, the answer is still the shocking same.  Not only are shows that open in the spring still more likely to get nominations for Tony Awards in all categories, the % advantage has increased since we last looked at the data in every category but best play revival!  I mean look at that Best Play number!  Almost 80%!

Ok, let’s go to the winners.  What do you think?  Same results?  Place your bets, because here we go . . .

 Tony for Best Musical
  • 65% of the winners from 1989-2008 opened in the spring
  • 57% of the winners from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Tony for Best Musical Revival
  • 67% of the winners from 1994-2008 opened in the spring
  • 100% of the winners from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Tony for Best Play
  • 60% of the winners from 1989-2008 opened in the spring
  • 86% of the winners from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Tony for Best Play Revival
  • 87% of the winners from 1994-2008 opened in the spring
  • 86% of the winners from 2009-2015 opened in the spring
Best Actor/Actress in a Musical
  • 63% of the winners from 1989-2008 were from spring shows
  • 86% of the winners from 2009-2015 were from spring shows
Best Actor/Actress in a Play
  • 75% of the winners from 1989-2008 were from spring shows
  • 79% of the winners from 2009-2015 were from spring shows

I mean, do we have a trend or what?

First, yes, if you want to win a Tony, then you’re still better off opening in the spring.

Second, yes, except for Best Play revival, which remained flat, and Best Musical, which dropped, your chances of winning have increased if your show opens in the spring since we last looked at the data.  And look at these numbers.

100% of the winners of Best Musical Revival were spring shows.  100%!!!  86% of Actor/Actress in a Musical were from spring shows.  These aren’t small advantages.  These are pretty major.

Now, a couple of data disclaimers.  Yes, the period of time we’re microscoping now is a shorter period than we looked at last time, so you could argue we’re just in a spring state of mind.  But I don’t think so, and we’ll get to why I don’t think so soon enough.

And you might also say that more shows open in the spring, so of course it is more likely that more spring shows will be nominated and more spring shows will win.  And you’d be slightly right.  The fact is that in the first period we studied, 49% of Broadway shows opened in the spring and 51% opened in the fall.  In the latter period, 56% of shows opened in the spring and 44% opened in the fall.  But it’s not nearly enough of a difference to explain why 80% of winners are spring shows.

So, the conclusion of the blog is that not only are shows that open in the fall at a disadvantage . . . it’s getting worse.

Why?  And what can we do about it?

That’s for tomorrow’s blog.  (Click here to read Part II now.)

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

FUN STUFF:

– Get everything you need to help get your show off the ground when you join TheProducersPerspectivePro for free.  Join the club today.

– Listen to Podcast Episode #67 with the Executive Director of Samuel French, Bruce Lazarus!  Click here.

– Submit your play to the 4th Annual Davenport Theatrical 10 Minute Play Contest by Friday, April 15th for the chance to win $500!  Click here.
Tags:
Comments
  • Jared W says:

    I wonder how much of this is a self fulfilling prophecy. It seems to me that more and more high profile productions are waiting for the spring to launch, even when they could have been ready sooner (like Fun Home, which waited over a year for its Broadway transfer).

    Personally, I’ve always thought it’s not so much when a show opens as it is whether the show is still running in the spring. I bet if you crunched the numbers, there’d be an even greater correlation between currently running nominees and winners, and since spring shows generally don’t have time to close before the Tonys, that correlation would still apply.

    Also, please tell me I’m not the only one to appreciate the irony of reexaminng this trend during a season when the Best Musical winner will almost certainly be Hamilton, which opened in the summer.

  • Jeffrey Sweet says:

    What’s missing in this piece? The number of eligible shows that open in the fall vs. the number in the spring. Way more show open in the spring so it’s not entirely surprising that the number of nominations for spring shows would be higher. Why do more shows open in the spring? Because producers figure we’re more likely to vote for the stuff in most recent memory. And this year a show that opened in the fall is gonna do pretty well, don’t you think?

  • Sue Cohen says:

    “Try to remember (that time in) September…..”

    How about the Oscars? I haven’t looked at data but it always seems like films which open late in the year win. Why don’t they let the masses vote. Look at the millions who voted for American Idol contestants.

    • Mike Vogel says:

      Because all the good movies are released late in the year! They want their movies to be fresh in the minds of Oscar voters. More or less the same with Tony nominees.

  • Rick says:

    ……I mean, do we have a trend or what?
    First, yes, if you want to win a Tony, then you’re still better off opening in the spring.

    Well….since I have 2 major Lead Actresses who will be competing for Best in a Musical…”The 2 Billies’ “….I think “Spring Awakening”…works for me …2017!!!
    Thanks Ken!

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    Speaking of fall openings, Ken, how’d you end up doing on your revival of SPRING AWAKENING?

    I’m not being snarky. But since you’re so willing to share data…did it recoup at all?

  • Your analysis is missing a crucial comparator: the percentage of total shows which opened in the fall and the spring. Without that stat, you don’t have any baseline other than time (i.e. year over year), which leaves a gap in your calculations which you’ve filled with a leap of conjecture.

    For instance, if there is an increase over time (or in an anomalous year) in the concentration of spring openings, one could reasonably expect there to be a corresponding increase in nominations, all else being equal. You haven’t taken this into account at all. Right now, your thesis is proven by stats which assume either an equal number of fall/spring openings, and/or an equal fall/spring split from year to year. I think there is a much bigger picture here that you’re missing. Ask these questions in conjunction with your central thesis: Is there a trend toward spring openings over time? What is the percentage of nominations within the fall openers and the spring openers, compared to the total number of shows?

    For example:
    – The fall openers, which represented 42% of the period’s shows, represented only 36% of the nominations.
    – Only 10% of the fall shows were nominated (few shows, more heavily nominated), vs 35% of the spring openers in the same period (nominations spread out over more shows) – an interesting stat to know, since the fall Hamilton/La Cage/Dreamgirls (all fall openers) will skew the story in an interesting way, i.e. What types of shows open in the fall – limited runs, juggernauts that can survive the winter before awards season, quirky smaller musicals looking to build audience with less new product competing for the news cycles?

    I don’t discount your thesis, because as a longtime voter, I am VERY interested in this exercise, so fix your stats and come back to us with a more complete picture of this interesting question you’ve posed.

    • And yes, I know you represented a 51/49 split over the past 20 year in your 2009 post, but you’ve omitted that here, and didn’t provide the same for the recent period. So is there a greater concentration of spring openers in the last 7 years, or has the split remained the same over time, indicating perhaps a perception by producers that spring=advantage and a push towards spring openers?

      • **and that last sentence should be: So is there a greater concentration of spring openers in the last 7 years, indicating perhaps a perception by producers that spring=advantage and a push towards spring openers, or has the split remained the same over time?

    • Jeremy Y says:

      I do agree with the need outlined above to create a baseline to contextualize these statistics. That said, I don’t expect it will change the results all that much, it will just reduce the chasm marginally between fall and spring opening percentages.
      I would suggest however, that the reasons for the predominance towards spring show nominations is that a not inconsequential number of the 800 (or so) Tony voters are from out of town. It is probable that they come to town to make their mandatory viewing in order to be eligible to vote, once 100% of the eligible season is open (and to attend The Broadway League’s Spring Road Conference concurrently in most cases). At that stage, any shows that opened in Fall and did not survive through the Spring, are less likely to receive nominations regardless of their artistic merit, because less Tony voters attend those Fall opening shows that do not survive. Just a thought.
      Also, what Producer ‘prefers’ to open a show leading in to the slowest selling months of the year, from week 2 of January through end March! 😉

      • Neal says:

        I don’t believe any Producer consciously decides to open a show moving directly into the “death season”.
        I would hazard a guess that it has more to do with real estate, than anything else.
        “Clinton the Musical”, a critically acclaimed Off-B’way show, had originally been targeted to open mid-June…AFTER the awards season was over.
        HOWEVER, the theater became available in APRIL, and at the risk of having to sit on the sidelines for god-knows-how-long, we took it – going head-to-head with Broadway, and all the new shows it had to offer! We probably would’ve had as good a chance of survival, had we opened in the Winter!
        Currently, we are in a Sellers market – As Producers, we are at the mercy of the theater owners….so, along with establishing a relationship with your investors, get as friendly as possible with your neighborhood Shubert, Nederlander and/or Jujamcyn executives! And keep plenty of cash on hand, for that sudden theater availability.

  • loreen says:

    I’m writing a musical and it will take quite a few years but you better believe that I’ll do everything I can to have it open in the spring somewhere.
    Perhaps people are in a better mood in the spring and since it’s close to the award show it might make more an impression on the voters.(atleast they would remember it)
    Hamilton might be the exception!

  • Neal says:

    I can personally attest to the validity of Fall vs. Spring openings. I was a Producer on “On The Town”, which opened in October 2014, to 100 PER CENT RAVE REVIEWS! – At the end of 2014, we were the ONLY musical to make ALL TWELVE TOP 10 LISTS for the year (“Curious Incident” did the same in play category)!
    On top of attending numerous rehearsals, I saw OTT EIGHT TIMES, during the preview period, then attended the opening night (natch).
    I didn’t see the show again UNTIL OUR 100TH PERFORMANCE! – The curtain went up, the music began, and as I watched this marvelous show, I kept thinking “Shit, this is a REALLY GOOD SHOW!”.
    I, who had seen this production so many times HAD FORGOTTEN HOW GOOD THE SHOW WAS!!
    So then, what chance does one have, when they’ve seen your show ONCE, then many months later, begin to watch all the shiny new “baubles” that make up the Spring season? (btw: we did invite the voters to come see the show again, in late Winter, with only a smattering of takers)
    There were actors & creatives who most assuredly should’ve been nominated for the TONY – they weren’t.
    Because of my own experience, I understood. This was not political (as some of the “best” categories were), nor was it a case of the TONY voters not knowing a great performance, when they saw one….It was simply the fact that like myself, THEY FORGOT how great this show was! And if you think I’m prejudiced, all you need do, is read ANY of the reviews that came out that October.
    Oh yeah. For the record; I truly believe if we had opened in the Spring, with all the ballyhoo that we had in the Fall; we would/should have won the TONY for “Best Revival”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SIGN UP BELOW TO NEVER MISS A BLOG

X