UPDATED (again in 2020): Is THIS a sign of a market correction on Broadway coming?

There have been a lot of closings lately.  Broadway has felt a bit like Barnes & Noble after Amazon took off.

Ok, ok, there are always a lot of closing announcements post-Tonys, but something seems different this year.

And it has me worried.

The signs I’m seeing say that we’ve got a market correction a-comin’ in the next 12-18 months, which could pull our grosses (and attendance) back a bit from the super highs we’ve had.

What has me all a jittery?

Even before the Tonys, three plays announced they’d be bringing down the curtain prematurely:

King Lear

Hillary and Clinton

Right after The Tonys, another set announced:

The Prom
Be More Chill
King Kong

And then came a couple of surprises:

The Cher Show
Pretty Woman
Frankie and Johnny

Yeah, all those shows.  Enough to make a non-Broadway blogger think something was rotten.

But believe it or not . . . those nine shows are NOT what got me thinking that we’re due for a pullback.

It was three OTHER shows.

You probably can’t name them, but three more shows went gently into that good night recently.

Know which three I’m thinkin’ of?

Go on . . . I’ll wait.

I’ll give you a hint . . . collectively these three shows ran for . . . wait for it . . . 23 years???

And you can’t even get one of ’em, can you?

Ok, ok, no more reality-tv, judge-like-stalling . . . the shows are . . .

Avenue Q

The reason, of course, you couldn’t name them, is that they were Off-Broadway shows (ok, maybe you got Avenue Q), and Off-Broadway doesn’t get the attention that its big brother Broadway gets.

Why are these three shows’ final curtains significant?  Because they’ve been running for years . . . two of them for about a decade!

If a show closes that has ran for that long, and weathered many a storm (literally and figuratively), something has to be different in the market for them to choose to load out now.

And they all announced prior to the Broadway onslaught above, which is what first triggered me to think there may be some trouble in Broadway city.

Think about it this way . . .

If there is a flood, the people who live at the bottom of the hill (the less well “off” – or Off-Broadway, in this case), get wiped out first.  Then slowly but surely the water rises to those who live on top (the rich – or Broadway, in this case).

Those three Off-Broadway stalwarts goin’ down means trouble for anyone trying to launch or run a show now (which is why we’ve seen 9 shows close this summer).

But that’s not all . . .

I wrote a blog about corrections a few years ago and determined that Broadway “dips” occur every 3.67 years.

And those dips are always timed with three things:

  1. A Presidential Election.
  2. The Summer Olympics.
  3. A Leap Year.

(Read the original post about these three events and how they affect Broadway here.)

Guess what we’ve got in the next 12-18 months?

All three.

And guess how long it has been since the last correction?  You guessed it . . . about 4 years.

So buckle up all . . . it could get a little bumpy this Broadway season.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/18/19

This subject is not something I like to be right about at all.   But since I posted this blog just a bit ago, two more Broadway musicals that have been around for years have announced their closing as well . . . Waitress which will close on January 5, 2020, and one of the most successful bio-musicals, Beautiful, which will shutter in the middle of October.

So yeah, to quote the title of another musical, something’s afoot.

We’re going to have a little vacuum of available theaters right now.  They’ll go fast, of course.  The theater owners won’t have a problem filling ’em, because Producers will by lining up to sign a lease PDQ.  But I hope they don’t go too quickly . . . because shows that rush their marketing just to get a theater first might be rushed out the door as well.  And that would only create a correction cycle that’s not good for anyone.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/19/20

Ok, so . . . we’re not just in a correction, we’re in a shutdown.  Something that Broadway has never, ever seen before.  First, this is not what I was expecting when I wrote the above!  I take it back, I take it back!

Second, if you’re interested in reading more about Broadway post-Covid and reading my “3 Reasons Why Social Distancing Won’t Work For The Theater,” click here.

Do you know there is a MasterClass.com, but for the theater?  Check this out. 

  • Joe says:

    While I, too, was surprised at the exodus of shows that seemed to have closed early on Broadway, I don’t know if I buy your concern over those off- Broadway plays- Avenue Q has been chugging along since the mid 2000’s, and I think it was inevitable. Puffs was never really in the general consciousness, and Newsical happens everyday- now on Fox and in the NY TIMES. Why pay $50 when you can turn on your tv or open a webpage and get it there.
    I would guess ALADDIN will shutter soon and that’s still ok- it’s had a nice run. I think I’d start to get worried when MORMON, LION KING or WICKED number start to drop.

  • richard says:

    Sometimes I wonder why certain plays go to broadway: is it because, even if they fail, they can tour around the country and pull in money? or is it because the producers can take a tax loss? Is Slave Play really going to recoup its cost for production?

  • Tracy Jordan says:

    While I always ponder your interesting insights, I would proffer a couple of more surface observations: Ave Q is being done EVERYWHERE- including high schools now; and tourists- if not most folks- looking at show titles are likely going to steer away from anything Clinton/politics related- I mean, can we talk market over saturation? Ugh.

  • Douglas S Murri says:

    The current ticket prices must also be a big factor in the mass closings. The current prices must be causing many ticket purchasers from only buying tickets to the current megahits.
    I live on the West Coast, but have been visiting NYC for an annual Theatre Vacation at least once a year for my entire adult life. I’m now 63. In one week I will see 8 shows. However, for the first time ever, I did not do a NYC theatre vacation this past year. Next year we are planning to do a London theatre vacation. Even with the more expensive airfare to London, with the
    more reasonable London ticket prices, we will be able to see more for less money. Broadway has priced this lifelong theatre fan out of the market.

  • Casey says:

    “Waitress” just announced it is closing on January 5, 2020

  • Ami Fazchas says:

    Any addendums to this now that Waitress and Beautiful have announced, Ken?

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