Put it in the history books, another Broadway season has come and gone. Dreams came true. Hopes were crushed. And that was just on Smash!
Canceled TV show jokes aside, one of the challenges of an industry like ours is putting aside the emotions of dreams and hopes for a moment, and looking at the cold, hard data that our billion dollar industry spits out.
As you know, I break our year up into quarters and every 13 weeks report on how we’re doing (taking a cue from corporate America) as we race towards the finish line. Will we outgross the year before? Will our audience grow? Let’s find out!
- Final gross for the season was $1,138,734,331
- Last season we grossed $1,139,311,457
- That’s a decrease of .1% from last season.
- 11,569,711 people saw Broadway shows in the 2012-13 season.
- 12,334,312 people saw Broadway shows last season.
- That’s a (gulp) 6.2% decrease from last season.
- There were 1,430 playing weeks this season.
- There were 1,552 playing weeks last season
- That’s a decrease of 6% from last season.
Oh boy. Where to begin.
Let’s chat grosses first. This is the first flat-line/decline we’ve seen in five years. The last decline from season to season was in . . . ahem . . . 2008. Remember that @%$#-show of an economic year? Yeah, so the fact that we’re repeating a trend from that year isn’t the best news on the Broadway planet.
Why did we flat line after so many years of always adding to the grosses? Here’s the thing – several years ago, we got very wise to the variable pricing/premium pricing game. And we’ve been crushing it ever since. And whenever you implement a new business strategy, there are significant immediate and measurable results. But after several years, the effects of that strategy are minimized . . . because it’s not a new strategy anymore. The market catches up to you. And your max gain from that strategy is realized. And unless we start growing our audience (see below), we’re never going to get above a certain gross level.
Now attendance . . . We sank 6%. It’s pretty much the biggest decline I’ve seen . . . and that any of us have seen. So why? Well, yes, the Broadway League is correct . . Hurricane Sandy did have an impact on the season’s numbers, both attendance and grosses (read the official release here) But 6%? Even a super-sized storm like Sandy can’t do that much damage.
This huge drop is more due to the 6% drop in playing weeks. Less shows = less people. But, and here’s the rub – do I think we should have had more shows to have more bodies? Nope. Because it wouldn’t have made the shows successful. And I’m a believer in not over saturating our market when we have limited audiences. And now, with a 6% drop, we’re more limited than we thought.
So am I worried? Sure. I’ve been barking about the attendance thing for a long time. And grosses going up every year without growing our audience is attributed solely to rising ticket prices. And that will catch up on us. (Sometimes I feel like an astronomer who sees a comet coming for the earth.)
That said, the drop in attendances is also due to the fact that more shows are opening in the spring. We put three or four long running hits on the board this spring . . . and that’s going to kick off our next season with a strong start. Just watch the first quarter report in September. We’ll end up in positive gains for shizzle . . . and I’ll bet money on it.
And if my prediction doesn’t come true, and attendance drops for a third year in a row . . . which has only happened one other time in 30 years . . . well, then . . . uh . . .then . . . I just may have to hang it up and go to law school. Ewww.
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