My Three Predictions on what the Broadway landscape will look like in 5 years

Whenever any industry goes through a period of explosive growth, like we on Broadway are in right now, it has a ripple effect on how that industry will operate over the next chunk of time.

And as we talked about yesterday, not only are we in a time of plenty on Broadway right now (plenty of tickets being sold and plenty of musicals runnin’), but we are about to enter a period of even greater attention from the media and from ticket buyers (which, by the way, will result in a whole bunch of new players eager to get in on the action).

All of this is going to have a serious effect on the development of new musicals and plays on Broadway.


One reason . . . and it’s that one reason that makes our business different than all others.

There are only 41 Broadway theaters available for the “distribution of new product.” (Forgive me the businessy-language when talking about the theater, but hey, Broadway is a Big Effin’ Business.)

And wait, scratch that . . . because there are not 41 Broadway theaters available.  Take out the theaters where PhantomLion KingWicked, Hamilton, and Book of Mormon are mega-hitting, because those ain’t available.  And they won’t be for some time.

Now, you’re saying, “But Ken, that’s the way it has been for the last decade or so, that hasn’t changed, so what makes this now worthy of this blog?”

Because not only are shows running longer, but the incoming shows that I see on the horizon, Harry, Frozen . . . but also King Kong, Spongebob, and other shows with big brands and big corps behind them . . . well, they’re not going to come and go like shows did in the past, even if they don’t get Tony or critical love (this season has at least 2-3 shows that will chug along for multiple year runs without Tony noms or a thumbs up on DidHeLikeIt).

These shows are being built to run longer.  And they will.

And this even greater squeeze, thanks to more mega hits and longer runs by medium hits means THREE things for incoming musicals and plays on Broadway.  Here are my predictions:

1.  Expect less competition for new musicals.

In two years, with all the currently running shows, plus the above shows, AND Mean Girls, Margaritaville, Cher (all of which I expect to run at least a year, regardless) and a handful of others, means that there just isn’t going to be room for many new musicals.  So the competition for Tony Awards, and the audiences that like new stuff?  It’s just going to be less . . . because we’re going to have less product to deliver.  If you are able to get a musical up in a couple years?  It’ll be a good thing.

2.  Expect new musicals to get smaller.

It’s no coincidence that two of the nominees for new musical this year (Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away) were medium/small-sized musicals.  Because there ain’t theaters for big musicals anymore!  Even Hamilton ain’t no spectacle.  Broadway Producers and Broadway Authors are having to conceive smaller shows with bigger emotions . . . because these are the platforms we have available to us.  And with fewer theaters available, we’re going to have to get even smaller, in order to work in the few playhouses that are available.  Of course, that’s even more bad news for the new plays trying to come in, which brings me to . . .

3.  Expect the non-profits to take over the launch of new plays on Broadway.

Thank goodness that all the major non-profits have Broadway venues nowadays. Because the squeeze above is going to squeeze out new plays from Broadway seasons in years to come.  While I do think our Theater Owners will always be committed to presenting new plays on Broadway, the money is made in musicals, and as more musicals take up spaces, they’re just going to have fewer playhouses to . . . er . . . play with.  The non-profits will be the savior of the new play on Broadway.

So those are my three predictions for the next five years.

The one thing that could change all this?

If one of those big corporations with a big wallet, or an independent Producer with a big set of you-know-whats, says, “Hey, if it is now proven that I don’t need a Tony to gross $1mm+ a week, maybe I don’t need a Broadway house?”

And they open their major musical at an alternative venue.

Then, things get real.

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  • Carvanpool says:

    No, wrong again. See Cirque and their several failures, on and away from Broadway.

    Any “new” venue would lack the serious cache that Broadway brings. If your theory were right, off Broadway wouldn’t be in the dire straits it’s in. (BTW, what was that prediction of yours about the Shuberts lighting up off Broadway with their acquisition of New World Stages? Still waiting on that one.)

    If you were right, maybe you should have scooped up a few hundred seats of Kevin Spacey’s Clarence Darrow at the National Tennis Center. I hear it was a great place to watch and hear the planes take off from LaGuardia.

    No, trying to predict Broadway is a fool’s game. That’s real.

  • Here's The Thing says:

    I know you are not able to reply, but my question is with the early closing of plays (that originated from the non-profits but went on to commercial runs) bode for the future of plays, both new and revivals, on Broadway? The producers are not effectively reaching new audiences and or successfully marketing these plays to the various demographics who have historically been ignored (such as people of color).

    The non-profit Broadway houses are usually programmed several seasons in advance which doesn’t leave any openings for surprise hits from their Off-Bway venues to successfully transfer.

    For some reason when the plays that come from the Off-Bway houses transfer to commercial spaces it’s a risky venture because they don’t have that built in subscriber base to support these shows that the nonprofits do for their Broadway theaters (such as MTC, Roundabout, and now Second Stage).

    Also, why haven’t the B’way landlords either built a new state of the art B’way theater or snap up one the empty theaters on 42nd St?

    • Here's The Thing says:

      I meant to say “What does the early closing of plays (including those that originated from the non-profits but went on to commercial runs) bode for the future of plays, both new and revivals, on Broadway?

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