Broadway’s 2012-13 Q4 and Final Season Results.

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!

Timpani roll!

GROSSES

  • 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.

ATTENDANCE

  • 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.
PLAYING WEEKS
  • 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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Broadway has another family.

I’m a dude.

And that means I love The Godfather.

That also means you have to deal with a Godfather analogy every so often.

And I’ve got a good one today.

Because Broadway has another family.

I’m talking about theater owners, of course, because, let’s face it, Broadway and its theaters are a little like mafia territory, don’t you think?  And just like The Godfather had five different “famiglia” that controlled all the crime activity, we’ve got a handful as well that control all the theater activity (and no jokes about what some of them charge as being criminal, ok?).  Leaving out all the non-profits, here is a list of the theater owners on Broadway:

The Shuberts
The Nederlanders
Jujamcyn
Disney
And our maverick independent owners of Circle and Helen Hayes.

Until recently, there was one more theater owner . . . Live Nation . . . the corporate and concert behemoth that acquired the Foxwoods in a bit of an estate sale that traces back to the disaster formerly known as LiveEnt.

Live Nation never really felt like one of us, as the others on that list above did.  And, well, they weren’t really one of us, because they just sold the Foxwoods . . . to The Ambassador Theater Group (or ATG, for acronym lovers out there), a UK org run by Harold Panter.  (You can read the Variety article about the sale here.)

As you can tell by the “T” in ATG, ATG’s principal biz is the theater (they own 39 venues around the world, including 12 in the west end), so they are one of us . . . and will undoubtedly take an active role in the shaping of our industry as we grow older.  And I’ve got a feeling they’ll shake some things up along the way.  How?  Too soon to tell, of course, but I will say this . . . they own a ticketing company.  So . . . there’s that.

There have been a lot of rumors of who was going to get the keys to Foxwoods in the last couple of months.  And while I had my money on another player . . . I think it’s pretty cool to have a super successful “family” from overseas jumping into our fray, especially one that is as passionate a player as ATG.

So let’s welcome them with a Godfather-like kiss on the cheek.

And let’s hope we don’t end up with a horse head in our beds.

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Play our Tony Pool and you can win an iPad.  Click here to enter and win!

– Win two tickets to Billy’s Unspeakable Acts.  Click here.

– Only 42 performances of Macbeth remain!  Get tix.

Who is the Broadway Touring Audience? The 2011-12 Report Revealed!

Almost two decades ago, the Broadway League began tracking the demographics of the touring audience for Broadway shows, understanding that the audience on the road is a feeder audience for Broadway.

It is/was true for you, right?

If you don’t live in or close to NYC, and you’re a Broadway fan, odds are you see shows at your local Civic Center or PAC, am I right?  That’s what I used to do (shout out to the Colonial Theater and the Wang Center in Beantown!).

Touring shows are gateway drugs to the bright lights of Broadway.  Additionally, since touring shows can be more profitable than Broadway shows, it’s important for us Producers to understand just who out there is buying the tickets, how they buy them . . . and why.

Enter The League and their biennial report on the Touring Audience Demographics!  And the latest report, for the 2011-2012 season (which featured almost 13 million admissions in almost 300 theaters across our great theatrical nation) was just released last week.

You can get the full report here directly from The League, but I’m going to summarize their summary for you.

Here are the key points from the 2011-12 Touring Broadway Demographic Study:

  • 12.7 million total attendees is the lowest reported attendance since 2004-05.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  GULP!)
  • 70% of touring show attendees were female.
  • The average age of the Touring Broadway theatregoer was 50.5 years.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is older than the NYC audience)
  • 89% of the Touring Broadway theatregoers were Caucasian.  (NOTE FROM KEN:  This is whiter than the NYC audience.)
  • 78% of the audience held a college degree and 30% held a graduate degree.
  • 46% of national theatregoers reported an annual household income of more than $100k, compared to only 21% of Americans overall.
  • 31% of respondents were subscribers to the “Broadway Series” at their local venue.
  • On average, Touring Broadway attendees saw 4 shows per year.
  • When looking for information about the show, the majority of audiences looked to the theatre’s website.
  • The most commonly cited source for show selection were:  the music, personal recommendation, articles about the show, having previously seen the show, and its inclusion in the season subscription
  • Respondents reported the Tony Awards to be more influential this season than in previous seasons.  21% of respondents said that Tony Awards or nominations were a reason they attended the show, compared to 8% in the 2005-06 season.
  • Only 17% of respondents said that an advertisement influenced them to see a show and 14% said they were influenced by a newspaper critic’s review.
  • 65% of the audience said that some kind of incentive (discounts for restaurants, parking and transportation, free merchandise, backstage tours or complete packages) would encourage them to attend theatre more frequently.
  • Facebook was the most widely used social networking site.
  • 40% of respondents said different performance times would encourage them to attend Touring Broadway more frequently.
  • 47% of Touring Broadway theatregoers used the Internet to purchase their tickets, the highest percentage yet.
  • Advance sales to single-ticket buyers has increased in comparison to the early 2000’s.
  • 34% of respondents said they made a visit to NYC in the past year.  Of those 82% attended a Broadway show while in town. (NOTE FROM KEN:  This number should be 90% or more IMHO, so we’ve got work to do.)
  • 75% of respondents said they would prefer to receive theatre information electronically, rather than postal mail.

Well, what do you think?  Is the Touring Audience what you expected it to be?  Do you fit in the above group?

If you’re interested, click here to see a summary of the latest report on the Broadway demographic audience and you can see how the two stack up side by side.

Lots of interesting stuff in the report, as always.  Of course, the most concerning stat is the drop in attendance since almost ten years ago.  And, significantly, the past three years have seen a decrease each year.

Why?  Is it because the subscription audience is waning?  Is it because there’s too much competition out there?  Is it because there aren’t enough new blockbusters out there to drive admissions?

Sure, yep, and true that.

But those aren’t the only reasons.  And because the Touring Market is such a necessary component of the Broadway Business Model, especially for musicals, we better find out.  And fast.  Because no one wants to see a fourth year of decline for the next report.

What do you think the issue is?

 

(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF:

– Play our Tony Pool and you can win an iPad.  Click here to enter and win!

– Win 2 Tickets to Murder Ballad!  Click here to enter.

– Only 48 performances of Macbeth remain!  Get tix.

Is there a Producer Doctor in the house?

We’ve all heard the expression, “Show Doctor”, right?  You know, that Director or Writer who joins a troubled production out-of-town, or in previews, with the goal of providing the creative changes necessary to save a sinking show.

You ever wonder why some shows don’t have Producer doctors?  Imagine . . . six months after a show opens, a show is struggling.  Why not bring in a hired producing gun; an outsider with objectivity to shake up the team . . . fire some people, change marketing strategy, etc.  There’s no guarantee that a new CEO will take a company in a new direction, but it’s worth a shot, no?

Honestly, this probably won’t ever happen on independently produced shows.  But I can name quite a few shows produced by some big corps that could have used the medicine of some of our industry’s veteran producers.

But ego gets in the way . . . and honestly, a Broadway show can be as hard to turn as the Titanic.  They are so big and bulky, that when you are heading for an iceberg, it’s hard to avoid it.

Which is why we need to look into a different way to build them.

 

(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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FUN STUFF

– 31 Days to Godspell!  Read the day-by-day account of producing Godspell on Broadway here.

– The next Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar is on 9/17.  Only 2 spots left.  Register today!

 

Broadway Vocab 101. Why is a flop called a turkey anyway?

Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

It’s ironic, don’t you think?  We spend this one day pounding back slices of turkey, and we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid producing one.

And why do we call a flop a turkey anyway?  Why not an owl?  Or a swallow?

Well, these are the types of questions that keep me up at night, so I decided to do some Gearching (I’ve decided that the word search is now so inextricably connected to Google that we should just combine the two words), and share the results with you, on this fowl-filled day.

So why is a Broadway show that flops called a turkey?

It all comes down to IQ.

Apparently, a turkey is a pretty damn dumb bird.

Don’t believe me?  Well, I found one web post from a dude who used to work at a turkey farm and breeding facility that gave two examples of IQ-challenged turkey behavior:

1 – The pens of the farm had to be equipped with specially designed water bowls which would keep a minimal amount of water in the bowl and shut off while the turkeys were drinking. Why?  Because on occasion, a turkey would “forget” to lift its head while drinking . . . and drown.  And this guy saw it happen.

2 – Large scale turkey farms regularly use artificial insemination to get the turkeys to reproduce.  Why?  Because if they didn’t, the turkeys just might not around to it on their own.

So the birds are stupid.

And in 1927 (coincidentally, the year that Show Boat opened), someone decided that flops were stupid too. (Probably because everything looked stupid compared to Show Boat.)

And thus, a dud became a turkey.

Now that I know the answer . . . I still like owl better.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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