Why I’m predicting a revolution in the theater “space.”
The theater is always about 10 years behind other industries . . . including our sisters in the entertainment sectors film and music.
That’s not a slam, really. The primary consuming demographic in those other mediums are younger than ours, so of course it takes us a beat to catch up.
And something tells me, in one way, we’re about to.
First, let’s look at what happened in the film and music scene.
In the early 2000s, the entire Hollywood model was disrupted when independent film found its groove, and over half of Hollywood releases were made by indie studios and cost between $5mm and $10mm.
What brought down these costs and empowered the indie movie maker? Suddenly, everyone could make a movie as digital cameras and eventually even smartphones democratized the production process. Give a kid a couple hundred bucks and a camera bought at Walmart, and he could make a movie and then edit it on his Mac. (See Paranormal Activity, made in 2007 for a whopping $15k but grossed $200mm.)
Then, the same thing happened in music. As the cost of making music came down, so came the rise of the independent musician. In fact, in the past decade, there has been a 510% increase in independent musicians making their full time living from music in just the past decade.
First comes film, then comes music, next comes theater in its own revolutionary carriage!
Theater has always been an expensive art form. Unlike the creation of film and music, the basic tenet of the theater is that people have to show up in front of a live audience in order for it to happen. Any labor-intensive industry like ours is going to be expensive.
So how can technology disrupt it?
But the “showing up” isn’t where I predict the revolution in our industry is going to occur, because the labor isn’t even the most expensive part of our production budget.
It’s the space.
The theater itself.
And the revolution that’s coming is . . . who’s to say we need a theater anymore anyway?
The “tech” disruption that is going to take our business through the same cycle that the film and music business went through is rooted in the same principle . . . the democratization of production . . . but in our case it’s going to be because the theater makers of tomorrow are going to stage their theater in places no one ever thought to stage theater.
They’re not going to sit back and not make plays or musicals just because a proscenium stage costs too much or because they are all booked. This generation doesn’t stand for that. This is where being the “entitlement” generation is a good thing.
Because they’re going to feel entitled to make. And make it they will, anywhere they can, just like their predecessors in the other industries made their art, with whatever equipment they had. Those folks proved they didn’t need the best cameras in the world or the best studios in the world to make their art. And our artists will prove they don’t need the biggest or best theaters to do it either.
We’ve seen the start of this already, with shows like Sleep No More and other site-specific productions.
But these are just the prelude to what I believe is coming around the bend.
With Broadway theaters becoming more difficult to book, the squeeze of the artist is on to find different places to show off his or her wares.
So don’t be surprised if you hear that in 10 years there has been a 500% increase in the number of theater artists who make their living in the theater . . . they just may not be performing in a theater.
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