How The Theater Crunch Will Affect Author Deals.

Fact.  There are more shows waiting for Broadway theaters than ever before.

Fact.  Producers are waiting longer than ever to get a Broadway Theater for their shows.

Fact.  Producers option shows from Authors which require them to pay monies for additional time if they do not produce the show by a certain deadline.

Result.  Producers are getting more and more frustrated with paying additional advances solely because they can’t get a theater . . . which in most cases is no fault of their own.

Scarier Result.  At some point, rights agreements expire, which means Producers are at risk of losing the rights altogether, even if they’ve put in millions of developmental dollars, but can’t get a theater . . . which in most cases is no fault of their own.

What This Could Mean.  Producers option fewer shows because the risk of losing their own monies, investor monies, and what’s even more valuable, their time, is much, much greater . . . through no fault of their own.

Advances were originally designed to prevent Producers from sitting on scripts, like they do in Hollywood. Because there was a time when the Broadway industry was like the film industry.  If a Producer wanted to produce a show, you went down to the theater owner’s office, picked out a theater, got the keys, and off you went.  In film, if you want to make a movie, you make the movie.

So Authors and their reps, very smartly, came up with a system to prevent that from happening.

But now, with our limited number of theaters, and massive amounts of product, it ain’t so easy to just produce a show.

So the ways these deals were designed just ain’t making as much sense in the modern era.

Authors DO deserve something for the rights up front, and over time, and Producers MUST be motivated to get @#$% done.  But if a Producer is doing everything he or she can to get that show on, should he or she be financially penalized for something that they might not be able to control?  And should he or she be at risk to lose the entire project???

I guess you could say, “Well, if the Producer could get a better star, it would happen.”  But is that really what we want?  To further depend on stars to make a show happen?”

You could also say, “Well, if the Producer had better relationships, then he or she could get a theater.”  I guess so, but then why would you option your show to him or her in the first place?

And then, couldn’t a Producer say, “Well, if the show was better, the theater owners would give it a theater faster!”

But that stuff is pointless, and just creates acrimony between parties that should be aligned.  Because Producers and Authors both SHARE the frustration about the lack of theater availability these days.

It’s time for a new arrangement . . . perhaps a ‘pause’ on advance payments after a certain period if the Author has approved the production (Director and Actors) and the only thing that remains is a theater . . . and maybe the Authors get a 10% pause kicker on the Advance for that delay . . . and most importantly, perhaps a “non-expiration” clause if the only thing preventing the show going forward is a theater, so that all the hard work and cold cash can’t just vanish because Frozen and Harry Potter get the first choice of available theaters.

Producers and Authors are on the same side here, and a new deal must be structured that takes the current real estate climate into effect.

Otherwise, Producers may option less, which puts less money in the pockets of Authors.

And then all we’ll have is Frozens and Harry Potters.

  • Rich Mc says:

    Let me go out on a limb and assume that in the negotiations with the author (or content owner) to win the right to produce a promising work on b-Way, the Producer is going to do a big-league selling job on her timely ability to secure a theater, based precisely on strength of industry connections, etc. If she wants the Rights badly enough in a competitive environment, it’s not much of a stretch to assume such ‘connections’ may frequently be exaggerated. In this scenario, the angst Producers sow is what they will deservedly reap.

  • Scott Thompson says:

    We already only have Harry Potters and Frozens. And the Cher show. And the Jimmy Buffet show. And the Springsteen show. Why should we care about any of it? Stick a fork in it – it’s done. And now it’s the authors fault? Who have waited 15 years years to get their show done and have watched it beaten into an unrecognizable mutant over the course of 50 readings and 3 overpriced, inconclusive workshops? It’s up to authors to forgoe the pittance Dramatist Guild minimums while the GM and everyone else collects a check while the show lingers in development hell forever? That’s a good one, Ken.

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