Why there could be a drought of new material in theaters around the country, nope, world.

As I talked about last night in my webinar on licensing (which is now in the PRO archives if you want to hear it), the regional theaters, community theaters, and high school theaters around the world, mostly get their ideas for shows from what was most recently on Broadway.

I hate to use a politically charged phrase (especially during this time of year), but I call it, “The Trickle-Down of Titles.”

Shows open on Broadway, shows go on tour (hopefully), then shows go to regional theaters, stock, community, high school . . . and don’t forget the giant global market that is eating up Broadway titles like a thirteen-year-old kid capturing Pokémon.  Because NYC is the capital of the theatrical world (I don’t care what London says), the buyers of theatrical titles look to see what we’re doing here to decide what they can do where they are.

But there could be, nope, there will be, without a doubt, a slowdown in the new titles coming from Broadway in the next ten years.

Here’s why . . .

We all know that we’re getting better at running our shows longer, right?  That’s one of the (many) contributing factors of the current theater crunch.  In the 50s, 60s and even 70s, shows didn’t run for 3 years, 5 years, never mind 10 and 20 years.  So that means fewer shows getting their shot on Broadway.

On top of that, even after a show finishes it’s run on Broadway, there are so many more distribution channels available for it (tour, non-union tour, etc.) that these shows may hold on to their rights longer than they used to, in an attempt to get every nickel under every couch cushion in every corner of the country (as well they should).

Fewer shows on Broadway means fewer shows trickling down to the regionals . . . and this is especially true for new plays, as Broadway musicals park themselves in play houses for extended periods of time since the big barns are all taken by the mega hits.

And this is going to be especially true in the next few years.  As I mentioned just a few blogs ago, we’re about to put three megahits on Broadway in three years (Hamilton, Frozen, and Harry Potter).  Those shows aren’t going anywhere for a decade at least.  And if you think they are going straight to licensing after that, I’ve got a theater to sell you in Florida.

Fewer shows, and slower releases.  The regional, stock and amateur markets are going to be super thirsty for new titles.

So where do they find them?

Well, here’s the glimmer of hope, my friends.

Broadway isn’t the only place for new stuff.  And without the ability to get the latest and greatest title from the Great White Way, theaters around the world are going to have to look to elsewhere . .  . like, I don’t know, Off Broadway.  There could be and should be an increase in the value of licensing Off Broadway titles.  I’m seeing a sign of this first hand in the licensing of Daddy Long Legswhich is already set to play a bunch of big markets around the country, including my local fave, the George Street Playhouse.

Thirsty theaters aren’t just going to give up producing while Broadway becomes a bunch of long runners, “studio pics”, and star-driven revivals.  Which means there will be more opportunities available for new writers and producers in alternative markets here in New York.

Unless of course, the buyers all start looking to London.


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

– – – – –

Interested in learning more about topics like this? CLICK HERE to join The TheaterMakers Studio, an online community, certification training program, and resource for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and theater makers of all kinds!


  • Carvanpool says:

    Uh, wrong. New titles and content, if not forthcoming from Broadway, will come from TV, YouTube, or other online sources. Infinite cable outlets and Internet channels.

    Plain and simple.

    • David Merrick Jr. says:

      Who am I supposed to believe?

      A successful producer and theater owner, or some bitter malcontent who’s probably never produced anything but a bunch of snotty posts?

      Seriously, CVP, why do you even come to this site?

      • Frank says:

        While I agree with your general assessment of CVP, his point is still mostly valid. Producers will find work in other arena of entertainment. It may be true that the ever giving well of plays is drying up, but like anything else, it will find new life somewhere else most likely.

        I’d argue that Broadway hasn’t been the place to see “new” theater in years, so why would that change. Broadway does set the market though, so we can’t simply ignore it.

  • Sally says:

    Glad I live in Chicago, where we get fresh Broadway material and reworked material all the time.

  • Steven Conners says:

    Don’t know if I like your new schedule. I miss you ‘talking’ every day. Have folders since 2011 for your emails: Davenport” (stuff of interest) – “Davenport Statistics” – “Davenport Podcasts” – “Davenport Sales Pitches”. Maybe think about MONDAY – WEDNESDAY – FRIDAY giving an overview of the week. Whatever. I know you are tired of doing it every day. I’ll read what you send. —sjc

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    Dear Ken,
    I am a long-term reader of and subscriber to your columns.
    i want to invite you to “70 Girls 70”, a charming and rarely-done Kander and Ebb musical that is being revived/done at the HB Foundation studio at 124 Bank st. for four performances only – next weekend, and Tix are free. It’s on Fri 9/23, Sat 9/24 at 2pm and 7pm, and on Sun 9/25 at 7pm. It is directed by the great Lorraine Serabian, a ’68 Tony nominee for her role in “Zorba”.
    The songs are fantastic, and all the performances (except threes) are over 55. Check it out I think some smart producer should take this production and move it to Off-Bway, to the Lucille Lortel or the World Stages perhaps. I’m in it
    Ellen Orchid

  • Joe says:

    Do you think the Broadway community would ever consider making straight plays produced at off-Broadway venues candidates for a Tony award. As it is now, a Broadway house must be more than 499 seats. What if they decided that Off-Broadway houses that have [insert number here] and were producing straight plays could be considered for Best New Plays and Best Revival of plays. This would free up the Broadway houses for musicals (and the log jam of long running shows) and it would give a boost to smaller theater companies. I would guess that producing at an off- Broadway house would also have lower overhead and thus those plays might actually run longer, find their footings, burrow into the theatrical consciousness and hopefully into the larger national spotlight. I realize that there are a number of awards that highlight off-Broadway, but nothing compares to the limelight that is the Tony Awards. And should an off-Broadway play become a certified hit, a transfer to Broadway could still be possible. It seems a shame that far too many people today equate Broadway only with musicals. There is a metric ton of quality theater out there that should be shared with the nation.

  • I would love to talk with you about National New Play Network (www.nnpn.org), an organization of more than 100 professional not for profit theaters with a dedication to the development, production, and continued life of new works and the innovation and implementation of programs and products that revolutionize how theaters and playwrights work together to bring these works to audiences.

    There are hundreds of new plays by living writers being produced across the country and around the world each year, and the Network’s highly acclaimed and successful programs – such as NNPN Rolling World Premieres, Commissions, Residencies and Fellowships, Workshops, National Showcase and member-accessed Funds for collaboration and travel – are guaranteeing that these works and their makers are discovered and shared with theaters everywhere, including NYC.
    NNPN’s newest project, the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org) allows anyone in the world, regardless of professional status or organizational affiliation, to search a database of nearly 10,000 works by over 2,500 living writers (from more than 40 countries around the world) for just $10/year in order to find the new work that is exactly what is needed for their mission and audience.

    Regional theaters are creating and producing works that regularly become a significant percentage of the most popular works in America each year, and many of NY’s greatest hits owe their success to the work put into them and the support provided to their creators in places well beyond the boroughs.

    NNPN Member Theaters and their affiliated artists and artisans are appreciative of the work being created in the City, but they are also busy making lots of wonderful, thoughtful, provocative, charming, sensational work that will be seen a multitude of theaters around the world. No need to fear a drought!

  • Carvanpool says:

    What she said!

Leave a Reply

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