What Movie Attendance has to do with Broadway attendance.

I haven’t been to the movies in a year.  At least.

And before that last one (and I can’t even remember what it was), it had been another year before that.  At least.

What makes my lack of moviegoing even more interesting is that I have a gift card that would get me in for free and a couple of coupons for free popcorn and free Coke (my dream date).

And despite all that “freeness” and that there’s a big ol’ movie theater just three blocks from my apartment, when my wife and I were contemplating what to do last Friday night when trying to take our mind off the looming Tonys, we crossed off going to the movies faster than you can say Netflix.

That made me wonder if other people were abandoning movies as a night out just like we were.

So, I sent my Assistant Dylan and my new summer intern, Reilly, data diving to find out whether movie attendance was increasing or decreasing over the last ten years.

And, guess what . . . it turns out I’m not the only one turning down a trip to the cinema.

Here’s a graph of movie attendance over the last ten years (the dotted line is the “trend line”).

movie attendance

Not so good, right?  Obviously the increase in on-demand and streaming platforms delivered straight to your living room has kept people on the couch.

And now for the fun part.

I decided to take a look at Broadway attendance over the last ten years as well.  We graphed it out, and laid it on top of the movie attendance chart, and took a look at that trend line.

You ready?

Check it . . .

attendance graph

Amazing, right?  As movie attendance has declined, Broadway attendance has risen.

Makes you proud to be in this industry, doesn’t it?

I had a feeling this would be the case, but it’s nice to see the data prove it.  It’s a great reminder to those people who say “the theater is dying” that they don’t know what the @#$% they’re talking about.  The theater has been around for over 2,500 years.  So if it’s dying, it’s going very very slowly . . . and will outlast just about everything else.  In fact, I believe that as more and more two dimensional, recorded and flat forms of entertainment pop up on your TV, your phone, your tablet . . . the live, in-your-face, “in the room where it happens” experience becomes more and more rare.  And when something is more rare it becomes more valuable.  And when something is more valuable, well, more people want it.  See exhibit A on increasing attendance above.

What else does this mean for our industry on a more specific level?

The idea of distributing filmed content of shows in movie theaters around the country is already old news.  Instead, in the coming years, Broadway Producers will focus on what we did with Daddy Long Legs and what the Roundabout Theatre Company announced Tuesday in partnership with BroadwayHD for She Loves Me . . . deliver theatrical content straight to your living room.

And I predict that’ll help keep our attendance line trending up and up and up.

And I still won’t be going to the movies, no matter how much free buttery topping they give me.


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  • Frank says:

    BWAHAHAHA… those graphs are laughable. Somehow you seen attendance rising on Broadway when you have 3 high years and 6 down years? Soon there will be a 41st theater opening and the you’ll write about how the Broadway season saw another increase in attenedence, right?

    Come on, Ken. You’re better than this shady excuse for data research masquerading as “groundbreaking”.

    Your last two blogs have missed the point. Maybe you’re tired from all the Tony stuff and thinking clearly.

  • Carvanpool says:


    TV and streaming video leads to reduced movie attendance.

    So, let’s stream live Theater. That will help attendance.

    Get real. And open your eyes.

  • Tom says:

    If you had a movie that changed the major actors every three months people would see it again. How many times did one person go back to see Chicago, Hedwig or Finding Neverland because of turnstile productions?

  • Chris M says:

    My last five (5) visits to a movie theatre – 1) “The Audience” w/Helen Mirren, 2) “The Nance” w/Nathan Lane, 3) “Driving Miss Daisy” w/Angela Lansbury & James Earl Jones (twice) & 4) “Billy Elliott LIVE” w/London Cast. Next schedule visit is for “command” (repeat) of “The Audience” 07/19. I don’t much enjoy movies but love that movie theatres are offering (even infrequently) broadcasts of theatrical production to give us mid-westerners a fix of live theatre between touring companies and visits to Broadway.

  • Sue says:

    Ken, have you been to a cinema with the huge, reclining, foot-rest-equipped, reserved (no need to arrive early) cushy seats? For only 410? Think airplane first class lay-almost-flat seats. I won’t see a movie any other way, except of course on my flat screen TV.

    Oh how wonderful it would be to watch a Broadway show from a spacious, cushy seat with my feet up. Will never happen.

  • Ray says:

    I rarely go to the cinema myself. People have lost all respect. Crunching popcorn, talking, use of smartphone to check messages. Very annoying. So I watch movies at home.
    As for streaming: art works for me if I breathe the same air as the performers. Watching streams of theatre in a cinema would a) produce the same experience as above and b) it would be flat and not alive.
    Therefore: I go to the theatre or opera or concerts. About twice a week. That saves my day.

  • Klay says:

    My biggest complaint about a trip to the movies is sitting amid undesirable people including teens and children. Sometimes I don’t feel safe or healthy (sticky floors with food thrown about). I don’t feel that as much in the theater because those undesirables don’t have the money for a theater ticket and the ushers are present to manage the situation better.

  • Joe says:

    I love going to the movies! I love going to the theater. I will continue to hungrily consume both! Ken, You’re missing out on a great opportunity. Enjoy both entertainment venues!

  • Jennifer says:

    I always feel like if I have a night free – I’m going to see a play!.
    The movie will be there forever (and in many other more convenient formats) the show will be gone in a week or two (in Atlanta)
    I DID go see STAR WARS over the holidays with the fam! AND do enjoy a Sunday morning screening of the latest cartoon with my fave 5 year old “nephew” but they are the exceptions.

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