From Their Own Mouths: The Ghostlight Awards Acceptance Speeches.

The reason we held the first annual Ghostlight Awards was to shine the spotlight on the people in the wings, in the pits and working front of house at the forty Broadway theaters in town.

And based on the massive number of votes we received, it worked.

But then I realized, announcing the winners was only half of our job.  And my step-dad used to say, “Never do anything half-assed.”

Giving them some attention wasn’t enough.  We also had to give them a voice.

So, I sent an intern or three around to the theaters to shoot acceptance speeches of all of the winners!  And we’ve posted ’em online for you to see and hear (ironic that some of the Tony Award winners speeches weren’t heard this year, but we’ve got the Best Usher speech right here!)

So that’s enough talking from me, let’s let the winners do the talking.

Oh, except let me say one thing before they do . . . I want to thank THEM for what they do.  We can’t all be Idina Menzel or Jerry Mitchell or David Rockwell.  But Idina and Jerry and David couldn’t be Idina and Jerry and David without the thousands of people who staff their shows and help make them a success.

Ok, and now, a few words from the winners of The Ghostlight Awards:

 

Best Child Guardian:
Jill Valentine – Annie – Palace Theatre

Best Company Manager:
Susan Sampliner – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best Concessions/Bar Staff:
Jeremy Plyburn – The Book of Mormon – Eugene O’Neill Theatre

Best Dance Captain:
Brad Musgrove – Pippin – Music Box Theatre

Best Dresser:
Kathe Mull – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best House Manager:
Michael Composto – The Book of Mormon – Eugene O’Neill Theatre

Best Merchandise Seller:
Paul Moon – Wicked – Gershwin Theatre

Best Musician:
Philip Fortenberry – Rocky – Winter Garden Theatre

Best Musical Director:
Brian Usifer – Kinky Boots – Al Hirschfeld Theatre

Best Stage Door Person:
Rose Alaio – Matilda – Shubert Theatre

Best Stagehand:
Jocelyn Smith – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – The Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Best Stage Manager:
Lisa Dawn Cave – Rocky – Winter Garden Theatre

Best Usher:
Sarah Pauley – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – The  Stephen Sondheim Theatre

 

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Three Things Broadway can learn from The World Cup.

Broadway World CupGooaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!

Is it just me or has everyone gone World Cup Crazy?

It’s been four years since the last Cup, and I don’t remember the volume of the soccer conversation in this city ever being as loud as it is now, an obvious sign that the sport has achieved some serious market penetration, as opposed to four years ago.

It’s on the TV, it’s on the Interwebs, and it’s even on the streets (Three German dudes were passing a ball back and forth on Broadway and 48th street yesterday).

So what is it about the Cup that’s gotten everyone to literally kick up their heels?  And what can Broadway learn from it?

Here are three things that Broadway can learn from The World Cup:

1.  WE’RE INTERNATIONAL, BABY!

The Cup is like the Olympics.  It happens every four years, and it has a way of getting the attention of the entire world.  In fact, one year, the ratings for The Cup out did the ratings for The Olympics!  Countries from all over the world tune in and all talk one common language – soccer or rather, “football.”

While Broadway has only existed for about a hundred years, the theater goes back for thousands.  And plays are performed all over the world, in every language manageable.

While international tourists coming to Broadway has been on the rise in recent years (we welcomed 11 million international tourists in 2012), we’ve still got a tremendous amount of room to grow.

How could we grow the international market and unite our audiences like The World Cup unites theirs?

International stars in Broadway shows?  Ear piece delivered translations during the show?  Box Office treasurers who speak several languages?

The overall Broadway audience has been relatively flat for the last several years.  The international audience represents our greatest potential for growth.

2.  THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT.

Two opposing sides who are in direct conflict with each other.

That’s a soccer game.

And also a play.

Competitive sports are the perfect structure for any drama.  Take two characters.  Make one want something very, very badly.  And make the other one NOT want that character to get it.  (You probably remember that improv exercise if you ever took acting.)

This theory is why sports movies can be so successful (Rocky, Hoosiers, etc.) because they have a win/lose objective built in to their plot.

Want your audience jumping up and down?  Find a way to make your protagonists and antagonists wants as diametrically opposed as Brazil and England, competing in the finals.

3.  EVERYONE LOVES A CONTEST

The thing about the World Cup is that . . . there will be a winner.  Just like The Stanley Cup.  And the Super Bowl.  And The Westminster Dog Show.  And the local spelling bee, beauty pageant, and bake-off.

People are drawn to competitions.  They love to watch them and they love to participate in them.  And when you have contests, you actually fuel both sides of a specific business.  You draw so much attention to the subject at hand, that the audience expands, and, new “players” rush into the game as well.  (That’s one of the reasons we do our 10 Minute Play Contest – to encourage more people to write, knowing that a competition, with a cash prize, will be a good motivator).

And since “players” eventually become audience members or supporters, contests like The Cup become a double whammy marketing lightning rod for the growth of an industry.

We’ve got a good set of awards here with The Tonys, Drama Desks and Outer Critics.  And there’s the Oliviers in London.  But I’m still wondering if there could be some more global competition involving the theater.  Remember, way back  in 2008 (!), in the humble beginnings of this blog, when I wrote about The World Championship of Theater?  Not sure if that idea is entirely possible, but there has to be something that we can do on a global scale.  Heck if they can have a World Champion BBQ Cooking Contest, there’s gotta be something we can do, right?

 

The World Cup and Broadway have a lot in common.  People love ’em, but they don’t necessarily pay enough attention to them all year ’round.  They’re like that friend you see once a year that you love hanging out with, but then you forget about ’em until next year.  And when you do see ’em again, you say, “Why do I only see you once a year?”

Our job as Producers and FIFA’s job (with their 2.6 billion in profit) is to find a way to be the best friend that you can’t live without.

(Truth time – I wrote this blog last night and after I finished, I remembered I wrote a similar one FOUR years ago after the last World Cup!  So if you want to read five MORE things (albeit a little bit dated) that we can learn from The Cup, click here.  It’s crazy that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to repeat myself about events that happen every four years.)

 

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Why I’m going to start producing movies.

In case you missed it, a show closed recently without ever having opened.

Back before all the Tony Award hoopla, the Broadway bound production of Titanic hit an iceberg.  (Ironically, the acclaimed production was crossing the Atlantic, having originally been produced at London’s Southwark Playhouse.)  It was supposed to play Toronto first – that terrific town that used to have as much impact on the commercial theater scene as Chicago, but just hasn’t been able to rebound since the glory days of the 90s.

The reason posted in the press for the cancellation of the Toronto run of Titanic, which then dominoed into the cancellation of the NY run?

No available Broadway house.

It costs a lot of money to do out-of-town productions, and since the producers of Titanic couldn’t get a guaranteed Broadway theater sometime in the coming season, they wisely pulled the plug.  They didn’t want their ship sitting in the harbor with nowhere to dock . . . and no guarantee that it would ever dock.

So once again, the greatest problem facing Producers in the 21st century ain’t raising money, it’s finding an available theater amidst the jungle of long-running hits that we’ve spent the last 2-3 decades producing.

I wrote about this at length in this post from last year after Tuck Everlasting similarly postponed their pre-Broadway tryout (in that post I break down the available theaters by the numbers, so check it out).

So what does this have to do with me and movies?

It’s pretty simple.  I want to produce Broadway shows.  And I’ve got a bunch of shows that are approaching the port of Broadway themselves.  And a few others that have land in sight.  But I’m obviously not the only one.  There are a lot of producers out there, and a lot of good shows, big stars, and such.  And if there are less and less docks available, that means, well, the odds of me getting a show on decreases.  And that means . . .  well, what the heck am I going to do?  I’m not a thumb-twiddler, that’s for sure.  And I need to produce like a woodpecker needs to peck.

So, I’m going to start producing things that don’t need a theater.  And that would be movies.  And web stuff.  And so on.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m not giving up on theater or Broadway at all.  For the love of George Gershwin, no.  But I’m a businessman.  And if the current theatrical climate restricts my ability to conduct business, then I’ve got to find some other businesses that fulfill what I want to do with my career.  (This kind of thing happens all the time in all sorts of industries, btw – the music biz, cell phone production, etc.  And it’s up to you to adapt to what’s happening around you.)

So I am going to start producing other things.  And I’m excited to say I’ve already got a napkin sketch of a slate of three non-theater projects.  Stay tuned for an official announcement in Q3 of this year.

This is a weird time for Producers.  I’m reminded of how people talk about losing writers to Hollywood because there are so few opportunities on the Great White Way for new and unknown playwrights.  And since it’s hard for them to earn a living writing for the theater anywhere else but on Broadway, they run out to H-town the first time someone offers them cash for a draft of American Pie 17.  I can’t help but wonder if the lack of theater availability now and in the coming years (it’s only going to get worse as we produce more long runners) will drive more Producers out West or to other careers.

Or maybe a couple of the remaining unrestored Broadway houses will reopen. Or maybe some new ones will be built. Or maybe non-traditional spaces will open up all over.  Or maybe Broadway will expand its radius (there are some sweet and huge spaces in Harlem).

I’m not so sure.  But I’m going to make sure I’m diversified just in case my ships have to drop anchor for longer than I want them to.

I’m super excited about the new stuff.  At the very least, I’ll learn a lot.  And I’ll have even more stuff to talk about on this blog.  And hopefully you’ll learn right along with me.

 

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How often do the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Winners predict the Tony Award winners?

It’s inevitable.

When you have a set of awards that precede a bigger set of awards, people start asking . . . “Does the winner of the first mean that they are a shoe-in for the second?”

The Oscars have The Golden Globes.

And The Tonys have The Drama Desks.  And the Outer Critics.

Now that both of those trophies have been given out, I couldn’t help but wonder, how often do the winners of those awards go on to win the Tony Award???

In other words, I’m handicapping this race like this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes!

To figure out the odds, I looked back at the winners for the past 15 years of The Big Four Awards:  Best Musical, Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Revival of a Musical.

Here’s what I found out:

BEST MUSICAL

  • 66.7% of the Drama Desk Award Winners for Best Musical also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.
  • 80% of the Outer Critics Circle Award Winners for Best Musical also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical.

BEST PLAY

  • 80% of the Drama Desk Winners for Best Play also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play.
  • 86.7% of the Outer Critics Circle Award Winners for Best Play also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play.

So, a big couple of trends are already showing up just by looking at these two categories.

First, in the grand scheme of things, winners of both awards do go on to win The Tony the majority of the time, so it does give you an odds-edge to take home one of these awards.

More specifically, both the Drama Desk Awards and The Outer Critics Awards are better predictors of the Play category than the Musical Category.

And, surprise, surprise, the Outer Critics Award is a better predictor of the Best Musical Tony Award by a significant margin.

Let’s take a look at the revival categories:

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

  • 80% of the Drama Desk Winners for Best Revival of a Musical also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
  • 73.3% of the Outer Critics Circle Award Winners for Best Revival of a Musical also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY

  • 80% of the Drama Desk Winners for Best Revival of a Play also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
  • 53.3% of the Outer Critics Circle Award Winners for Best Revival of a Play also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Fascinating.

First off, same thing as the originals . . . the winners in these categories do go on to take home the big prize on Tony night more often than not.

But, in the case of the revivals, the Drama Desks are the much better predictors of both the Musical and the Play category.

Now, sure, all three sets of awards are not identical – the DDs merge Off Broadway and Broadway shows together, shows that were eligible Off Broadway last year and then transfer to Broadway the next year, can’t be eligible again, but those differences don’t actually matter . . . because we’re just calculating how many times one winner goes on to win the other, with all those idiocracies intact.

What does this mean for this year’s awards?

Well, obviously the above gives you an indication of which shows are favorites for the Tony . . . but there is one other stat that applies specifically to this year’s awards.  And it’s a doozy!

See, this year, the same show won the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical and the Outer Critics Award for Best Musical (Gentleman’s Guide).  And the same show won the Drama Desk Award for Best Play and the Outer Critics Award for Best Play (All The Way).

So I couldn’t help but wonder . . . how many times has that happened, and how often does the same show go on to win the Tony?  Does a two-time winner before the Tonys indicate a high probability for the Broadway Triple Crown?

First, let’s look at the Best Musical award.

Well, it turns out that in the last 15 years, the same musical has won the DD and the OC Best Musical prize 10 times.  That’s a lot.
But get this, of those ten, 9 of them or 90% went on to win the Tony.  (If that doesn’t make the Producers of Gentleman’s Guide  prep their speech, I don’t know what will.)
But wait, there’s more.

In the last 15 years, the same play has won both awards a whopping 12 times!  And, of those 12, all of them, or a perfect 100% have gone on to win the Tony Award.  100%.  That’s a pretty startling stat.

Interestingly enough, the revivals aren’t as on target:

84.6% of the Revival Musicals that won both awards went on to win the Tony.

72.7% of the Revival Plays that won both awards went on to win the Tony.

Why does this happen?  Is it because the Tony Voters think the same shows are actually the best of the season?  Or, is it because the Tony Voters are influenced by the announcements of the previous awards winners?  Should these shows be winning just because they won before?

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions (and feel free to comment them!), and feel free to use these statistics as you make your Tony picks (have you entered my Tony pool yet?).

But do remember, that even though these stats certainly can’t be ignored, a 15 year sample size isn’t the biggest on the planet of statistics, and . . . a trend is only a trend until it isn’t.

Tune in to The Tonys this Sunday to find out if the trends will hold.  Because I’m not so sure.

 

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End of Q4 and FINAL results for Broadway’s 2013-14 season.

To quote Queen, “Another one bites the dust!  And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust!”

The one I’m referring to, of course, is the Broadway season.

The 2013-14 Broadway season has come to an end, which means you and I and all the other number crunchers out there can take a look at where we started, where we ended up and what that means about where we’re going.

Without any further Queen lyrics, here are the results:

GROSSES

  • Final gross for the season was $1,268,881,236
  • Last season we grossed $1,138,734,331
  • That’s an increase of 11.4% (!) from last season.

ATTENDANCE

  • 12,214,823 people saw Broadway shows in the 2013-14 season.
  • 11,569,711 people saw Broadway shows last season.
  • That’s a 5.6% increase from last season.
PLAYING WEEKS
  • There were 1,496 playing weeks this season.
  • There were 1,430 playing weeks last season
  • That’s a increase of 4.6% from last season.

Not bad, huh?  Not bad at all!

First about those grosses.  I mean, have you ever?  No, never.  Because it’s a brand new record for Broadway business.  What brought up these numbers so dramatically this season?  We continue and continue and continue to get better at variable and premium pricing which is driving up our grosses, and, of course, the playing weeks increase didn’t hurt.  And remember, last year was the first year since 2008 that we dropped some dollars, so it’s good to get them back.

Happy to see attendance bounce back and almost entirely erase the 6% drop that happened last year (remember that?).  Now, I’d like to see it grow for three years in a row at about a 2% clip.  That possible?  Possible yes, likely, no.

And playing weeks – well, you know all that talk about how there are no theaters available?  Here’s an actual stat to back it up.  To put this number in perspective (which no one ever does for some reason), there are a max of 2,080 total playing weeks available each year (40 Broadway Theaters x 52).  So, this year saw an occupancy rate of 72%.  (I’m lobbying for this occupancy percentage rate to be used instead of playing weeks – just seems easier to me).  That 72% may seem a bit low considering the log jam, but remember, 2,080 playing weeks would be all long-runners.  Load-ins, load-outs, etc. all take up weeks, so 2,080 could never be achieved.  So 72% has a much higher actual value than it indicates.

Overall, a very healthy “rebuilding year” for Broadway, and I’m glad to see us headed in a more positive direction.

Now, if we could only get recoupment rates to rise as well . . .

What do you think next year will bring?  Can we add to these numbers again?  What are your predictions for the ’14-15 Broadway season?

 

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