Episode 206 – The President of Disney Theatrical Group, Thomas Schumacher

Did you miss me?

Ok, maybe not.

But did you miss my guests???

That’s what I thought!

Well, the wait is over.  Welcome back to the brand new season of The Producer’s Perspective Podcast!

(Insert confetti cannons here)

Believe it or you-know-what, over the break, we celebrated five years of podcasting. Five freakin’ years. When I first started out, with my portable microphone and no idea of what I was doing, I never imagined we’d have over 200 episodes and that so many of our industry’s leaders would be so willing to sit and share their wisdom.  The generosity of theater folks is beyond.

And a perfect example of one of those folks is today’s guest . . .  Mr. Thomas Schumacher, the President and Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, who oversees the development, creation, and execution of Disney’s legitimate stage entertainment worldwide.  Yeah, we’re talking the guy responsible for getting The Lion King to Broadway, not to mention Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Frozen and everything else under the Disney brand.

Tom and I sat down to talk about the role Disney has played in the building of the modern Broadway as well as . . .

  • How the film version of The Little Mermaid gave musicals back their voice
  • How theatre and Disney become part of your family heritage
  • What Broadway definitely needs to learn about diversity from Disney’s Mulan.
  • How Disney’s purchase of the New Amsterdam Theater helped revitalize Times Square.
  • A hint of what might be next for Disney on Broadway.

A lot of folks think that Disney is a big corporation.  Well, in this podcast, you’ll hear why its success is because it’s not run like a big corporation.  It’s run by one of the best independent producers in the business, who just happens to be backed by one heck of a big investor.

 

  • Click here to listen on our site!
  • Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review while you’re there!)
  • Download it here.

And this week’s #SongwriterOfTheWeek is Grace McLean! If you enjoyed the outro song in this episode, go on over to www.gracemclean.com or check her out on Instagram & Twitter @thatgracemclean.

In Tech (and in Life), Time is like Toothpaste.

I’m in a hotel room as I type this.  And I just finished a sweet caesar salad with chicken that left me fully satiated . . . and with some breath that could kill a whole bouquet of roses.

So I went to brushy-brushy-brushy (as Elmo sings to my daughter every night), grabbed my toothpaste, and noticed that I was just about down to the end of the tube.  I crinkled the tube some more, pressed out the corners and squeeeeeeeeezed with all my might to get a few more drops onto my brush.  “Come on,” I urged the tube, “I gotta kill this Caesar!”

I eventually got a little dollop to pop out but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have a little anchovy aftertaste right now.

You’ve been there before, right?  With toothpaste, or hand soap (ever put more water in the bottle to extend its life?), etc.

Now flash back to when you opened that tube of toothpaste . . . or that bottle of soap . . . you didn’t think even think about it coming to an end, now did you?  You probably over-pasted, or let some spill, and didn’t give two dollops.

But eventually, your tube did run out.  It always does.  And then you found yourself with less than what you needed to do the job right.

The same is true with time.

And I find my “toothpaste theory” is never more evident than in tech.

Tech is the most expensive and arguably most important time in a show’s run-up to a Broadway opening.  It’s where all the elements come together.  It’s when there are more people getting paid than ever before.

And you only have a fixed period of time before the tech ends, and the performances must begin.

And at the beginning of tech, everyone spends a little more time on things than they should. And then, as the first preview gets closer . . . and you start to approach the end of the “toothpaste tube of time,” things get more tense, as you’re trying to squeeze every last second of time out of your tech rehearsals to give that first audience the best show possible.  “If only we had another day,” is probably the most commonly heard expression in tech.  Well, second most common to, “Oh @#$%!”

So . . . it’s important to go into tech remembering that the toothpaste at the beginning of the tube is just as valuable at the end. Do that and you’ll find yourself with a better show for that first audience, which will result in better word of mouth, and so on, and so on.

Oh, and, by the way, this toothpaste theory works for life too.  No matter what age we are, we all think there is plenty of time to do all the things we dream about doing, from writing a play to having kids to taking that vacation to that one place we’re dying to see.

But, the fact is, life is short.  And you don’t want to find yourself at the end of your own toothpaste tube trying to squeeze a few more years out.  Because you can’t.

So go out there and do something you want to do today.

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Want to start working on that script of yours that is in your head but not yet on a page?  Take our free 30 Day Script Challenge . . . and get it on paper in 30 days, guaranteed.

Something I haven’t done in awhile.

For those of you new to the blog, one of the first things I did on Broadway that got some national (and even international) attention was my crowd-funded Godspell

One of the reasons I chose that massive legal and logistical undertaking was because, well, Stephen Schwartz told me that Godspell was about a community of people coming together . . . so I wanted to bring together the largest community of Broadway Investors ever (I’m a big fan of marrying your marketing message with your artistic message).

And the other reason I did it was because I had this theory.  See, I believed there were thousands and thousands of people out there who were interested in investing in Broadway shows, but . . .

1) They didn’t know who to talk to about it.

and . . .

2) They didn’t know how it worked!

The response to the Godspell offering was overwhelming, to say the least, and it proved my theory correct.  Investing in Broadway shows has, in the past, been for a very select group of folks, and often we kept more people out than we invited in.  And even when new folks got into the ‘club’ they often didn’t know what was happening after they wrote the check!

Since then, Broadway has gone through one of the biggest booms in its history and interest in Broadway Investing has skyrocketed.  Because when any industry posts numbers in the billions as we have, people come from all over hoping to find “the next Hamilton.”

And whenever you rush into anything, you can often make mistakes.

That’s what led me to develop a workshop on Broadway Investing several years ago, and eventually publish this book, Broadway Investing 101, a best seller on Amazon.com and the only book on Broadway Investing on the market.

But books are no substitute for the live, in-person, experience, right?  (We all love the theater, don’t we?)

That’s why, we’re reviving the Broadway Investing Workshop!  And we’ve got TWO dates coming up . . .

Tuesday, March 10th at 7 PM

Monday, April 6th at 7 PM

In this Broadway Investing workshop, you’ll learn

  • The myths of Broadway investing, and how exactly the money flows
  • Who to talk to and where to find Broadway investment opportunities
  • How to decide if an investment opportunity is right for you
  • Simple strategies to mitigate your risk and increase your chances of profitability
  • How to maximize the perks of Broadway investing

If you are interested in learning more about Broadway Investing, whether you’re thinking about investing yourself or if you’re just curious about how shows like Hamilton are funded, click here to join us for either date.

The seminar is $99 and we’re keeping the group small to make sure I can answer all your questions.

Oh, and everyone who comes will get a free copy of my book.

So grab your seat now.

 

(Interested in learning about Broadway investing, but can’t attend the live seminar on March 10th or April 6th? Click here to get your copy of my book “Broadway Investing 101: How to Make Theater and Yes, Even Make Money” on Amazon.)

3 Reasons Why The Hamilton Movie is Great for Broadway.

There was big news to begin this week, and it was broken by the maestro himself.  In case you missed it, here’s what Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted on Monday:

With just those few fragmented sentences, the internet blew up as more specifics about the all-out war for the rights emerged.  Disney won the bloody battle, and it only cost them . . . “wait for it” . . . $75mm.

Before you start trying to figure out how much Lin-Manuel will make on that payout or what the Broadway Investors will earn, let’s look at the macro of it all first.

Because this deal is one of the most significant things to happen to Broadway since . . . well . . . Hamilton itself.

And here are just three reasons why this mega Hamilton movie deal is grrrrrrrreat for all of Broadway, not just those folks who get a piece of that $75mm pie:

  1. The story and therefore stories go on. The commercial and artistic success of Hamilton was a lightning rod of attention from theatergoers and media outlets all over the world.  I remember before and after it opened, seeing article after article in every publication I read or every show I watched.  I even think they mentioned the show in Golf Digest!  One reporter told me, “We just keep writing Hamilton articles because that’s all anyone wants to read!”  That kind of focus on a show puts a focus on Broadway overall.  Hamilton made our industry very cool.And just when the stories had cooled in the other direction, here comes this even bigger one. And just wait until the movie is released in 2021!The Producers and Creators could easily have waited another decade to release the film (like when they wanted a steroid shot to their box office since we have data that film releases always boost box office grosses).  By getting it in movie theaters early, they will keep the spotlight on the show (of course), but on all of us at the same time.  So tip your revolutionary hat to ’em.
  2. They ARE giving away their shot . . . or WHAT they shot! Disney isn’t making a new movie.  They are taking what was already shot early in the run with that amazing original cast!  Yes, the Producers had the foresight to put it down on film in case they wanted to, oh I don’t know, sell it for $75mm someday!!!  (Side note – the $75mm purchase price makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it . . . because Disney could have easily spent $100mm to make the film.  This way they’re getting one already in the can!)What this is going to demonstrate is that there is tremendous value in putting our content down on video for later downstream revenue.  Currently, not every show can afford to do this, but the success of Hamilton will hopefully get all the parties to the table to find a way to record ALL shows for future use.  Actors, Investors, Stagehands . . .and Audiences . . . can all benefit.
  3. About that $75mm. Let’s talk about that elephant-sized load of cash in the room.  $75mm looks like it is the biggest film acquisition deal . . . in the history of the world!  And you know what got Disney to pony up that kind of cash?  Not Star Wars.  Not Avatar.  But a musical.  A Broadway freakin’ musical.Once again, this deal proves that Broadway isn’t just big business . . . it just might be the biggest business in the entertainment medium . . . because it has the most upside.  Our stars may not have as many Insta followers as an actor in the latest Marvel movie . . . but the fact is, there’s a lot of money to be made here.  And this deal proves it.And when deals like this are announced in any industry, more money flocks to said industry.  Companies, Investors, Artists, etc. will all be trying to find the next Hamilton.  And hopefully this influx of resources and talent will allow our industry to take even greater risks and create even greater art.  And maybe sell it for $80mm.

    BONUS!  Here’s a 4th reason why this deal is aw-aw-awesome for everyone.

  4. Everyone will get to see it. Hamilton is the Cartier or Tiffany’s of Broadway musicals.  Not everyone can afford to see it.  But now they can.  This movie will educate and inspire a whole new generation of artists and theatergoers to get involved with the arts . . . and especially a diverse generation.  In fact, this movie could be the greatest tool we have to diversify the theater in the next decade.

You looking forward to the Hamilton movie?  Do you think it’s good for Broadway?  Comment below.

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If you’re interested in learning how that $75mm trickles down to its Broadway Investors, click here to learn how the money from these kinds of deals flows.

 

What is the recoupment rate of REVIVALS in the last ten years? Part III

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.

So, for this third blog in our three-part Recoupment Study (See Part I and Part II here), I decided to dig into the recoupment rate of Broadway musical revivals over the last ten years.

Here’s what I found out.

In the past ten seasons on Broadway, the recoupment rate for Broadway musical revivals 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.

Argh.

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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Want to learn more about investing in Broadway, including how it works and tips on how to pick a “winner”?  Read the only book ever written on the subject.  Click here.

 

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