April’s grosses fooled us.

Something didn’t look right.

Every time I looked at the Broadway grosses during the month of April, my “Spidey Sense” went off.  (And in case you don’t know, “Spidey Sense” for a Broadway Producer is a fear that the #s are as bad as the Broadway production of Spider-Man.)

It just felt like shows were grossing less than they should.

I don’t like doing anything on a hunch, so when the month came to an end, I quickly went on to the ol’ BroadwayLeague.com to research this year’s grosses in the “foolish” month of April and compared them to last year’s grosses during the same period.

But rather than look at the cumulative results, which is what we all usually do, I broke the grosses down in different levels, and what I found was disconcerting to say the least.

Take a look at this:

  • In April of 2016, 23.7% of all Broadway shows grossed under $400,000 weekly.
  • In April of 2015, that number was 17.8%.

Even though it’s a year later.  Even though ticket prices are higher.  And even though, at the end of April, the season’s cumulative Broadway grosses are up .7%, we’ve got almost 5% more shows doing less than $400k per week.

So, that tingling sensation I had was my Spidey Sense after all!

Interesting, no?  And obviously, I don’t have to tell you, it ain’t easy to make money at less than $400k/week.

But like a great infomercial would say, “Wait, there’s more!”  When I broke down that disappointing “Under $400k” number a bit further, look at what I found:

  • In April of 2016, 14.2% of all Broadway shows grossed between $300-400k weekly.
  • In April of 2015, that number was 7.9%

And . .

  • In April of 2016, 8.2% of all Broadway shows grossed between $200-300k weekly.
  • In April of 2015, that number was 4.2%

Yikes, right?  You’re not only not making money at these levels, you’re most likely losing a lot of money.

So what’s the problem here?

Well, I don’t have to tell you that April is one of the busiest months on Broadway as shows rush to open before the Tony cut off at the end of the month.

And this year, well, wouldn’t you know it, we had 4.3% MORE playing weeks in April than in 2015.

So, what we saw this year is that more shows didn’t bring in more money.  The same dollars were just spread around among more shows . . . which means more than usual had to suffer through pretty hefty losses.

Perhaps squeezing in to the party at the last minute isn’t such a good idea anymore if we’re going to continue to have so many shows on the boards.  Perhaps there are different times of year that could get you more attention and more money.

It’s worth looking into because, unless Broadway stops putting up so much product, a lot of shows could end up with the joke on them.

 

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Comments
  • Shane says:

    This is the counter argument to the “we need more broadway theaters” that gets raised every time someone looks at all the shows struggling to get a theater.

    When the Hudson Theatre returns to being a broadway house, will we see an uptick in overall grosses or will we just dilute the existing audience dollars further?

    • Shane makes a great point. What about, Ken? I seem to recall that you’ve campaigned for more theatres in the past. Does this change your ideas about that?

      Also, is it possible that the higher ticket prices are partly to blame? Might the number of seats filled and total grosses go up with lower prices?

  • Carvanpool says:

    I’d like to introduce you to TodayTix, the good folks that are moving the more or less stagnant audience from TKTS or other regular discounts to the headset sears that are available. Same numbers of customers, less revenue.

    You Broadway producers that champion the TodayTix channel don’t really have a clue, do you? Hint: don’t believe their press releases! They’re selling Broadway ticket buyers the cheapest seats! Who’s the greater fool?

  • Sue says:

    Easter falling in March this year probably had a lot to do with lower April numbers.

  • Bobby says:

    I still believe lower price tickets back to a normal range would get more people in the theatres. Who can afford $1000 for tickets to Hamilton and also some shows are nearly $500. These shows might be excellent but for the average ticket buyer that is way out of their league. But wait I know some people who are make big salaries that can afford these tickets. But your average audience needs a break at times.

  • Kiri-Lyn Muir says:

    Shane and Michael’s comments above bring up the point I wanted to mention as well. In this blog you surmise that there are too many shows sharing a limited audience, and therefore ticket revenue…yet you also advocate for more Broadway theatres? Perhaps the limited amount of theatres is ‘natures way’ of ensuring that there simply isn’t too much product out there competing for the same audience?

  • RICK says:

    Ken, Great comments from everyone…As I am new at this… I have to agree with most of the ones about the # of Theaters vs the price vs…Just the timing of Easter?……No excuses lets focus on Branding the shows… ….“Wait, there’s more!” ….Yes, the average audience needs a break once in awhile… My SS check is a bit limited in funds…Just saying…When My show hits Broadway…All is Well!!!

  • Larry Webb says:

    I was just thinking about that, myself. Do more shows and new mega-hits (like Hamilton) only dilute available consumer/theater-goer dollars, or increase overall interest/attendance in Broadway theater? Hmmmmm….

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