When was the last time THIS happened?

Several years ago, a high-powered Broadway Exec told me, “We get a mega hit about every five years.”

But I’d argue that the hits are coming faster than that now . . . and very shortly, that five year average is going to change significantly.  And when it does, it’s going to change the landscape of Broadway along with it.

Broadway just got its latest megahit last year in Hamilton, just one short year after Aladdin sneaked up on us and said, “I know you didn’t expect it, but poof, I’m gonna run for a decade at least!”

I’m not looking backwards, though.  I’m soothsaying into the future, because for the first time it’s actually possible to see the mega hits coming from a year away.

We have two more megas coming in the next two years.  Frozen (and I know it hasn’t even been produced yet, but come on, you know it’s going to be Ice Age-like enormous) and Harry Potter (another no brainer given what’s happening right now in the UK, and by the number of people I’ve seen reading the script (!) at airports around the country).

Add that to Hamilton, and Broadway will have three mega hits in three years . . . all three of those shows running a decade at least.  When was the last time that happened?

It hasn’t.  Ever.

The great news is that Broadway, which is already in a bit of a boom (except for this “correction” year), is going to hit a gusher in the next couple of years, bringing in more money and new audiences than ever before.

The question is, will it overflow to the other shows?  Or, like this summer, will the big hits just get bigger as the other shows scramble for the box office scraps (let’s not even mention that two more theaters are going to go offline for a long, long time, creating an even longer log jam of new shows wanting to come in)?

And what if another mega hit pops up in the meantime (I’m hearing that Spongebob may prove everyone (including me) wrong, and be a much bigger box office threat than anticipated)?

Mega hits are good for all of us because of the lighting rod effect they have on our industry.  But it’ll mean a challenge for the new playwrights and producers with smaller shows looking to have their say on Broadway.

Could Off Broadway return to its former glory as a result?

We’ll find out in just two years.

 

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Comments
  • Frank says:

    I’d love to know where that source of yours gets his “Every 5 years number”, because a quick glance back over the past 50 years would argue that he is sadly mistaken. I suppose his definition of a mega-hit might be pretty restrictive.

    If you say a mega-hit is 3,000 performances, then over that past 52 years (since ’64) you’ve had 16, or one every 3.25 years. If you drop the requirement down to say 2,500 perfs, you end up with 22 shows, or one every 2.36 years.

    If you average it out across all shows that have opened on Broadway in the past 52 years, then you will find that 1-2% of all openings result in a “mega-hit.”

    I think mega-hits happen more than we generally think they do.

  • gj says:

    Can’t really call them back-to-back hits till they hit the stage. Other mega-hits like Wicked (2003) and Book of Mormon (2011) had more seasons separating them but they continue to crack the weekly “Top 5” years later. HAMILTON.needs a few more years under its belt so don’t start counting your chickens yet for them, and especially not for still-in-the-future FROZEN (Tarzan,Little Mermaid went bust) and HARRY POT-HEAD.

  • Jerry K says:

    Ken, I’d like to see you cover actual plays and not just musicals on this blog. Also, you seem to write about the same two or three or four musicals on Broadway all the time while ignoring the other 20 to 30 productions. WHy is that? I guess you’re trying to give the erroneous impression that you are somehow connected to these hits? Or, you are what’s called a “frontrunner” in life. You like the team that’s heavily favored, the singer that ALWAYS wins all the Grammys…you’re the type who’d bet against the Little Engine That Could while favoring the high diesel locomotive. Now quick, go post something with your name and “Hamilton” in the same sentence.

  • Tracy Jordan says:

    Along the lines of a rising tide floats all boats theory, big hits running longer in theaters will spur the need for more theaters. Smaller shows will benefit from repeat tourists coming back to New York wanting to see other shows. Off-Broadway will benefit by picking up the slack until New theaters come online.

    • Frank says:

      There is ZERO proof that the “tide raises all boats” philosophy actually applies to Broadway theater. 80% of all shows fail to recoup while on Broadway, and that number has been relatively steady over the past 40 years. Mega-hit only benefit those envolved in them for the most part.

      Just because Hamilton has been crushing it at the box office and in the headlines, doesn’t mean other shows benefit. Go look thru the graveyard of the past season and you’ll find the same trends that have been happening for the past 40 years hold true this years as well. Additionally, this upcoming season is already starting on a down note, so….

  • Frank says:

    “When was the last time that happened? It hasn’t. Ever.”

    You might want to take a quick gander at ’96 & ’97…

    Rent, Chicago, and The Lion King all opened in those 2 years.

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