When I first started producing shows and had to talk to potential investors, I put musicals into two different metaphorical buckets to make the risk levels easier to understand.
I described the two categories of musicals (original and revival) like this:
New musicals were like stocks. More risk, but a potential for a greater return.
Revivals of musicals were like bonds. Less risk, but the upside was limited (lack of subsidiary rights participation, shorter runs, etc.)
Since then, I’ve produced new musicals and three revivals (Godspell, Spring Awakening and Once on This Island).
My experience with these shows as well as watching what has happened with the other revivals over the past few seasons has given me that reach-for-the-Tums uneasy feeling.
Here’s what I found out.
In the past ten seasons on Broadway, the recoupment rate for Broadway musicals is . . . drumroll please . . . 18.52%.
Did you pop a Tums yet? Cuz I just downed four.
See, we know that the average recoupment rate on Broadway is 20% . . . and sure, sure, this revival recoupment rate isn’t that much under 20%, but it is under! And we’re talking about revivals! The “bonds” of Broadway! A revival has brand awareness! It also has a limited upside! So it should be less risky. But, in the past several years it has been more difficult to get your money back on a revival than a new musical.
I wasn’t satisfied with just this info, so I decided to dig into this subject a little shallower . . . meaning I examined the data over the last 5 years to see if I could see a trend from the 10-year span to the five-year span. What did I discover?
In the past five seasons on Broadway, the recoupment rate for Broadway musical revivals is . . . drumroll please . . . 16.67%.
That’s right. It’s getting HARDER for revivals of musicals to get their money back on Broadway . . . despite their limited upside.
What does this mean?
It doesn’t mean that we should stop producing or investing in revivals. But if we are going to produce a revival or invest in one, it does mean that we need to structure our deals with the Authors, Stars, Vendors, etc. differently, because the safety of a pre-existing theatrical brand isn’t enough anymore. Based on this data, Producers and investors are going to need more of a reason to jump into a revival, or they will only focus on new shows . . . and leave the revivals to the Non-Profits.
Or maybe, as Little Shop and Fiddler have proven, the way to produce a revival today is to do it Off Broadway and not on.
But we need to do something, because while I am so proud of the three revivals I produced, one of which got me a Tony Award, the numbers have spoken and they are saying to this Broadway Producer, “Don’t produce another one.”
It’s hard not to listen to numbers.
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