Are we in the Independent Theater Era on Broadway?

The mid to late 90s ushered in a new age of filmmaking.  It was the era of the “indie,” as movies outside the traditional studio model, many of which were lower budget, featured fewer stars and had more artsy themes, started to dominate the box office and the awards shows.

They were made for less but could gross just as much as a tentpole, making their profit margins higher while being more adventuresome than their big studio counterparts.

Many would say that it saved the art of filmmaking.

As I looked over the grosses for last week and thought about the shows on the boards, I couldn’t help but wonder (with a smile), are we at the onset of the Independent Era here on Broadway?

Just look at some of the shows that are crushing it . . .First, of course, we have Hamilton . . . a piece born entirely out of the brain of one individual.

But then we have the Best Musical winner, Dear Evan Hansen, doing $1.9mm, after its “star” left the building, and certainly not with typical Broadway subject matter.  Oh, and has anyone realized that there are only 8 people in that show?  They don’t even have enough for a 5-on-5 Basketball game, never mind a giant tap number.

Come From Away?  Yep.

And oh wait, what about this season’s The Band’s Visit, which just did $1.3mm!

Sure, sure, Disney is still crushing it, and the superstar-driven revivals will spit out their sliver of profit . . . but the real art AND commerce is in these independent shows.

You know what else about those shows I just mentioned above?  They are all produced by individuals, not by corporations (and I know all those people calling the shots on the shows . . . and they are strong, visionary, take-no-prisoners people who wouldn’t let a tank get in the way of what they want to do).

So yeah, we’re in the Independent Era. And it’s awesome.

You know what happened after the Independents started crushing it in Hollywood?  The big studios started to buy them out.

Could that happen here?

(Speaking of the Independent Era – subscribe to the blog here to make sure you get next week’s write-up delivered straight to your inbox – because I’ve got a warning for those who may have gotten too big for their britches.)

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!

  • Steve says:

    Hamilton, Evan, and Bands Visit were all developed and initially produced by non-profit theatres. So perhaps there is an indie-approach to them all by way of smaller, less risk ventures engineering those shows, but really those shows were produced under the non-profit method of enhancement. Quite different approach than the film industry, I’d say.

  • Carvanpool says:

    Who are “the big guys” going to buy out? “Independent” producers? Let them. It’s the creators that fuel the shows you are talking about. The producers are just along for the ride, even if you think you are somehow responsible for a Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, or Come From Away.

    Another case of outsized self-importance.

  • I agree. I live in the Midwest, but I when I entered one scene of music only from my full-length musical, “A Marvel, A Miracle, America!” to be accepted for theatre festivals in New York, three were accepted. Another festival which I only wish I had the money to enter and produce offers mentoring during the development and production phase of musicals with those who make the cut getting featured off-Broadway. Another one of my musicals, “Moses at Gethsemane,” about Martin Luther Kings last days in Memphis, Tennesse, has eight characters (quartets and choirs, as well as a ballet company, could be added to a large production) consists of four monologues by the main character, two hip-hop numbers, and fourteen songs – one that’s just a blues riff and others almost that short. This present a great opportunity for people like me who may bring new ideas and enough naivete to believe we can “make it there” off-Broadway.

Leave a Reply

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