The 5 Phases Of Broadway’s Return (and what to watch for).

There are a lot of things that are unknown about our future.

Here is what I do know . . .

Broadway will not open with 24-hour notice.

It’s not like one day you’re going to be walking around Times Square and hear, “Hey!  Guess what? Six just decided to start performances tonight!  Let’s go!”

We’re not a restaurant.  We can’t just turn the stove on and start cookin’.

Why not?

First, we need time to rehearse, put in new protocols, and much, much more.

Second, people don’t decide to go to the theater on a whim.  It takes planning on our audience’s part (from commuting time to babysitters, etc.)  We need to give them enough time to book their tickets.  And we need enough time to let the word spread that our shows are open again. (Cuz spoiler alert – we’d never have enough cash to afford the advertising to spread this message fast enough to fill thousands of seats . . . 8 times a week!)

That’s why I’m looking at the Broadway re-opening in five phases.  Here’s how I break them down . . . and the stress tests of the market that will have Producers like me sweating along the way.

PHASE I:  “We’re back on sale!”

Phase I will begin the moment that some shows announce they are back on sale and have an opening date . . . for real this time!  I’m betting that this will be a group announcement, even if the opening dates for the shows aren’t the same. There are strengths and confidence in numbers.  It’ll be a sign to our audience that these dates are going to stick.

I’d guess this phase will begin at least 3 months before the first performance, but more likely 4-6.

And this will be the first BIG test.

Has there been enough pent-up demand in our audience to warrant buying as soon as they are able?  Will they believe this date?  Will they break the ticketing sites trying to snag a front-row seat for that first performance?

This will depend heavily on what shows are announced.  (I’d expect the heavyweights that people couldn’t get tickets to before to make sure Phase I is a hit.)

PHASE II:  Pre-performances

This phase starts the day after Phase I and goes all the way until the first performance.

We watch this period very closely when we have a new show . . . which, in a way, we all do!  What is the velocity of ticket sales?  How many are we moving per day?  Does it increase when we advertise?  Does it increase as we get closer to that first performance?

Typically this period looks like the front half of a bell curve.

The big question mark is what will happen to those shows that were under sales pressure before covid.  What if ticket sales for the industry aren’t what we hope?  That would mean these shows would be under greater pressure.  If some of these shows miss their Phase II projections, could they decide to not open?  (With Save Our Stages funding in place, I doubt this will happen . . . but we won’t know until we’re in Phase II.)

PHASE III:  We’re back, baby!

I’m expecting a massive spike in sales the week these shows open up again.  Who isn’t going to want to be in a theater that first night?  Or that first week?  The Weather Channel should start issuing flash flood warnings now for the Times Square area because there are going to be Noah and the Ark-like tears that are going to spill into Times Square that night.

If we don’t have full houses those first few shows?  That’ll be a sign that we’ve come back too soon.

PHASE IV:  The reviews are in.

This next phase of our return will be after that hype of our resurrection dies down.  I’ve blogged about my prediction for our return here and I’m bullish that the word-of-mouth from theater folks seeing shows again will spike sales.

But it won’t all be good news.  Provided we get going with more full steam in the fall, we’ll have a big ol’ test right after those holidays are over, as we experience our first January/February post-pandemic.

The winter is a historically challenging time for Broadway.  Will it be worse next year?   Will some shows shutter quickly if there aren’t enough of our locals to go around (since Tourism is still expected to be down?)   Or will it be better because people will still be coming out of their coronavirus hibernation?

It’s not that far away from now, believe it or not, so Producers are probably thinking about this already.

How we get through NEXT winter will ultimately tell the tale on how long it will take to get to  . . .

PHASE V:  Normalcy.

Ahhhhhhh . . . that time when we return to the normal business patterns and trends of Broadway.  That time when . . .

Whoa.

Wait a minute.

Stop.

That will NOT happen.

This pandemic changed human behavior, consumer behavior, and theater-goer behavior forever.

We will never go back to the way it was before (and in some cases that is a very good thing).

There is no more normal anything.

Phase V will be something new that we’ve never seen before.  What is it?

Got me.  It’s an unknown galaxy far, far away right now.

But I can promise you two things.

We will get there.

And it will be very dramatic.  🙂

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I’ve written about the recovery a few times.  If you like this post, you might like the following blogs.  And some were so long ago, I might have been super wrong with some of my predictions!

This made me so jealous I could spit.

Forgive me for the deadly sin I’m about to commit.

I’m ENVIOUS OF AUSTRALIA!

Read this article from the NY Times . . . Broadway in Australia has re-opened with productions of Hamilton, Harry Potter, Come From Away and more!

How are they doing it?  Well, you’ll have to read the article but it involves robots and app contact tracing . . . and the hardest-piece-of-technology apparently . . . common freekin’ sense.

This should be us.  We should be back.  Not fully, maybe (our city and our theaters don’t allow for the space that Australians have to spread out – and therefore reduce the spread).  But we should have been able to get something back up by now.

Maybe had we had a mask mandate earlier?  Maybe if it wasn’t an election year?  (Although let’s all be glad that election happened!)  Maybe . . .

Ahhh, enough of that.  I can’t go there . . .

But honestly, my biggest fear . . . is do you think that this will damage the Broadway brand permanently?  Will our status as the theater capital of the world be threatened?

You tell me.  Because I’m too jealous to type.

Read the article here.

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If you or anyone you know has ever thought about writing a movie . . . you gotta tune into this.

Why we are going to need more NEW musicals when the Pandemic is over.

If theater was the stock market, I’d sell revivals short.

I know I run the risk of getting a Reddit-like backlash for this blog, but, revivals are becoming more and more a thing of the past.

Literally.

Their business model was challenged before the pandemic.  The recoupment rate for revivals of musicals was LESS than the recoupment rate for new musicals.  (See the full write-up and stats on that truth-bomb here.)

And as a business mentor of mine said to me last March, “If your business was in trouble before the pandemic, it’s going to be even more challenging after.”

It was those words that made me cut bait on two side-businesses of mine . . . and I’m so thankful I did. 

I know that from personal experience that revivals have had a tough go of it recently, having lead produced three. And none of them recouped, by the way, including two that got raves and one that won the Tony Award for Best Revival.

And now . . . after what we’ve gone through in the last year . . . they are going to be even harder to make work.

Because in one year, many of these shows have aged TEN.  Their attitudes towards racial equality, gender equality, etc, are not only out-of-touch . . . but now many of them will be uncomfortable to watch.

Which means they either won’t get done . . . or they’ll have to be re-envisioned.  (And Michael Arden can only do so many per year!)   I guess a 3rd option is that they’ll require such massive stars that the audience won’t even care what the show is.  But how long will that last?  And will the stars want to do them?

So if you’re interested in producing, investing, or performing in a revival (of a musical, especially), understand that the risks have gone up.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be brilliant ones.  But they are going to be harder to find.

 The upside?  Because there’s always an upside . . .

Theaters are going to need NEW musicals more than ever before to fill the holes left by the retired revivals.

And that’s where you come in.

If you’re a writer of new musicals, keep on writing, because the renaissance is coming.

Yep, I’m selling revivals short and issuing a STRONG BUY alert for new musicals and new musicals writers.

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If you’re interested in learning more about the structure of classics and how you can use that to create something NEW, I recommend Jack Viertel’s masterclass here.

It was more than just a restaurant. And he was more than just a man. RIP Joe Allen: 1933-2021

The only thing more comforting than being in a business that is so shaky and unstable, that restaurant and the man behind it gave us all something solid underneath our feet.

It IS my favorite lunchtime spot.  It’s casual . . . comfortable . . . and I did more deals there than my office.

Thank you for providing us with a place to meet, a place to eat, and for putting the posters of all those flops on the wall, a place to remember that it’s only a play.

Read the full obituary for Mr. Joe Allen, here.

And I’ll see you all there soon.

What does the Bitcoin frenzy mean for Broadway?

Here’s something only a handful of people know: a few investors of mine have used Bitcoin to invest in one of my shows.

It was something we were going to release when it happened because I thought it was a sign of something to come.  Turns out it was.

We ended up not releasing the news because, well, the investment didn’t work out so well.  (sigh)

But the investments happened.  And I’m pretty sure that it was the first-ever Bitcoin investment in a Broadway show.

But it doesn’t look like it’s going to be the last.

The idea for taking the investment came from one of my investors, actually.  She also advised me to buy some.  I did.  And it dropped.  And I sold it.

(Side note . . . it turns out that “buy and hold,” which is what every savvy financial advisor since the invention of financial advisors has advised, is a decent strategy.)

Bitcoin is back in the news, especially with yesterday’s revelation that the world’s 2nd most infamous tweeter, Elon Musk, announced Tesla invested over a BILLION DOLLARS in the cryptocurrency.

What does this mean for Broadway?  And Broadway investing?

Will you be able to buy tickets for Broadway shows with Bitcoin? Could SeatGeek, the new ticketing platform on Broadway, be the first to accept this alt-coin?

If Football players can get paid in Bitcoin, will certain Broadway stars want their cash in ‘coin?

And more investors jump on the train that my investors choo-chooed and invest in Broadway shows with alt-currency?

The answer to all these questions is Yes.

But not for a while.

Broadway doesn’t move as fast as electric car companies, or national sports leagues.  We’re slower to adopt new technologies.

Which is too bad, really.

Because look what Forbes Advisor, Taylor Tepper says about investing in Bitcoin:

“But when it comes time to actually plan out your future, it is something that should be viewed as a speculative bet as opposed to one that you can really rely on. You should go into that with every pretense of ‘this money could be worth nothing tomorrow.’ So that is money that you can afford to lose.”

This is the same thing I tell my new investors before they write a check.  And it’s what I recommend new producers tell their investors as well.

So . . . there could be a crossover in risk appetite between Bitcoin investors and Broadway!

The big difference between Broadway investing and Bitcoin?  Well, you can invest ANY amount of money in Bitcoin . . .  you don’t need to buy a full coin (now over $40,000 – thanks Mr. Musk!).

While it is possible to purchase partial shares of Broadway shows, those partials very rarely go below $10,000. My crowdfunded Godspell was that rare experiment that allowed the micro investor to get involved.

That proved, and this Bitcoin phenomenon proves, that keeping your investment minimums high may not be the way to raise the most money.

What about you?  Do you own Bitcoin?  Are you considering it?  Would you also invest in a Broadway show?  Are the two similar to you?

Comment below.

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If you’re looking to learn more about how I crowdfunded Godspell, check out the courses on investing and raising money in the TheaterMakersStudio. For less than the cost of a ticket to see a Broadway show, you can learn how to raise the total cost of that same Broadway show.

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