3 Dramatic Ideas for the Movie Industry from a Broadway Producer.

Here’s something I never thought I’d say . . . thank God I don’t produce movies.

Why sure, sure, the theater ain’t no producin’ picnic, but . . . well, let me just ask you this . . . when was the last time YOU went to a movie?  Seriously, how many movies did you go to in the last 12 months?  And how many movies did you go to in a 12 month period 10 years ago?

That’s what I thought.

The very thing that makes movies so profitable – only having to “make it” once and then monetize it forever – has made it less rare and therefore, less valuable.  Anyone can make a movie . . . anyone can start a streaming platform . . . and with the high quality of TV technology . . . not to mention the high-quality free TV programs, is it any surprise that people stay home and pop their own popcorn?

This challenge led the NY Times to ask some of the top filmmakers if the movie industry can even survive the next ten years,  You can find their answers here.

Certainly, Hollywood will survive, it will just look a lot different than it does now. The same way the music industry had to reinvent itself fifteen years ago when Napster and Limewire disrupted the world (remember those platforms?).

But the movie industry is going to have to shake it up, not stir it up. . . so I thought I’d offer three ideas on how to bring audiences back to the movies.

  1. Release a film in one theater at a time. 

Do you know why Broadway is so hot right now?  Because when there’s a hit show, you can only get it in one place.  And that scarcity drives up prices.

So, why not try it with a film?  Put it in NYC.  Put it in Chicago.  LA.  And nowhere else.  Make it rare.  Which will make it valuable.

Now, studios, this is going to @#$% with your business model like crazy.  Because you can’t make a $100mm film this way . . . just like we can’t make a $100mm musical (as Spider-Man proved).  The answer is . . . DON’T make $100mm movies.  Slimming your business model will force you to slim your budgets, which have gotten out of control anyway.  And that’s coming from a Broadway producer who makes less when producing a show than most of my vendors!

  1. Give it away for free.

The current Hollywood model is all about trying to get the biggest gross on opening weekend as possible.  How’s that working out for you, folks?  Time to flip it on its head.  Try giving it away on opening or that first weekend to generate so much word of mouth it gets more people talking than any amount of advertising could.  And hey, make the theaters give you a deal for doing it this way . . . because they’re going to sell a @#$% ton more popcorn.

  1. Forget theaters.  Stream it on THIS.

No, I’m not going to say Netflix.  I’m not going to say Hulu.  Or Amazon.

Stream it on your OWN site.  That’s right, give it away, or charge a few bucks, but make people sign on to YOUR website to do it.  Get that data (which is worth bucket loads of $$$).  Get that contact info.  All of which will allow you to market your next film much more easily.

Movies, Broadway, and Book Publishing are similar industries.  Our “products” are all sold through 3rd party providers (Telecharge, Fandango, Amazon, etc.).  When we give our customers to another party, we lose massive amounts of power.

Maybe it’s time we all try to take it back.

The movie industry has already been disrupted . . . and it still hasn’t found its way through yet (except by licensing their IP to Broadway Producers).  And yeah, I’m predicting we’ll see a lot of empty movie theaters in the next ten years.

The good news?

Maybe we’ll be able to turn them into real theaters.

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Are you interested in getting rights to a project from the movie studios?  I’ve got reps from all the biggies coming to the SuperConference to give you tips and tricks on how to do just that.  Click here and get your ticket now, before the price goes up on August 31st!

 

UPDATED: Is THIS a sign of a market correction on Broadway coming?

There have been a lot of closings lately.  Broadway has felt a bit like Barnes & Noble after Amazon took off.

Ok, ok, there are always a lot of closing announcements post-Tonys, but something seems different this year.

And it has me worried.

The signs I’m seeing say that we’ve got a market correction a-comin’ in the next 12-18 months, which could pull our grosses (and attendance) back a bit from the super highs we’ve had.

What has me all a jittery?

Even before the Tonys, three plays announced they’d be bringing down the curtain prematurely:

King Lear
Gary

Hillary and Clinton

Right after The Tonys, another set announced:

The Prom
Be More Chill
King Kong

And then came a couple of surprises:

The Cher Show
Pretty Woman
Frankie and Johnny

Yeah, all those shows.  Enough to make a non-Broadway blogger think something was rotten.

But believe it or not . . . those nine shows are NOT what got me thinking that we’re due for a pullback.

It was three OTHER shows.

You probably can’t name them, but three more shows went gently into that good night recently.

Know which three I’m thinkin’ of?

Go on . . . I’ll wait.

I’ll give you a hint . . . collectively these three shows ran for . . . wait for it . . . 23 years???

And you can’t even get one of ’em, can you?

Ok, ok, no more reality-tv, judge-like-stalling . . . the shows are . . .

Avenue Q
Puffs
Newsical

The reason, of course, you couldn’t name them, is that they were Off-Broadway shows (ok, maybe you got Avenue Q), and Off-Broadway doesn’t get the attention that its big brother Broadway gets.

Why are these three shows’ final curtains significant?  Because they’ve been running for years . . . two of them for about a decade!

If a show closes that has ran for that long, and weathered many a storm (literally and figuratively), something has to be different in the market for them to choose to load out now.

And they all announced prior to the Broadway onslaught above, which is what first triggered me to think there may be some trouble in Broadway city.

Think about it this way . . .

If there is a flood, the people who live at the bottom of the hill (the less well “off” – or Off-Broadway, in this case), get wiped out first.  Then slowly but surely the water rises to those who live on top (the rich – or Broadway, in this case).

Those three Off-Broadway stalwarts goin’ down means trouble for anyone trying to launch or run a show now (which is why we’ve seen 9 shows close this summer).

But that’s not all . . .

I wrote a blog about corrections a few years ago and determined that Broadway “dips” occur every 3.67 years.

And those dips are always timed with three things:

  1. A Presidential Election.
  2. The Summer Olympics.
  3. A Leap Year.

(Read the original post about these three events and how they affect Broadway here.)

Guess what we’ve got in the next 12-18 months?

All three.

And guess how long it has been since the last correction?  You guessed it . . . about 4 years.

So buckle up all . . . it could get a little bumpy this Broadway season.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/18/19

This subject is not something I like to be right about at all.   But since I posted this blog just a bit ago, two more Broadway musicals that have been around for years have announced their closing as well . . . Waitress which will close on January 5, 2020, and one of the most successful bio-musicals, Beautiful, which will shutter in the middle of October.

So yeah, to quote the title of another musical, something’s afoot.

We’re going to have a little vacuum of available theaters right now.  They’ll go fast, of course.  The theater owners won’t have a problem filling ’em, because Producers will by lining up to sign a lease PDQ.  But I hope they don’t go too quickly . . . because shows that rush their marketing just to get a theater first might be rushed out the door as well.  And that would only create a correction cycle that’s not good for anyone.


Curious how a show gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

The Top 25 Longest Running UK Productions: A By The Numbers Infographic.

Jolly ho there mateys!

Wait.  That’s not British.  That’s British meets some kind of weird Australian pirate or something.

Anyway, what I meant to say is . . .  Our infographic series is back!

Over the past few bloggin’ years, we’ve published a bunch of “By The Numbers” infographics to demonstrate that while theatre is an art, it also has business trends and statistics that can’t be ignored, especially when you are building your next show.  (And in some cases, we need to know about the dominating stats so that we can come up with initiatives to change them!  Ahem! Diversity!  Ahem!  Sorry, something in my throat there.)

If you’ve missed some of our previous infographics, there’s a summary of them at the bottom of this post.

But today’s is all about our friends from across the pond — the UK!

In my continuing quest to determine what works over there (so far, all that I know is that they love jukebox musicals and shows that make fun of Americans – true, true – think about it), I decided to analyze the 25 longest running shows in the UK.  And, well, I’m going to let these numbers speak for themselves.

One thing to remember before you take a peek . . .  there is not as big of a dividing line between the size of shows and theaters in Londontown.  Off-West End ain’t like our Off-Broadway.  So, you may see some titles below that you might not think should be in the same list as, oh, a Phantom.  But, in the West End, they don’t discriminate like we do.

Hmmmm, maybe that’s one takeaway right there . . . what if there was no “Off-Broadway” . . . Hmmmm.

Enjoy the numbers!

Interested in checking out our other Infographics?  Take a look and give a click:

What do the Top Grossing Broadway Musicals have in common?

The Last 20 Years of Best Play Tony Award Winners

Musical to Movie Adaptations

How do you become one of the 50 Longest Running Broadway Shows?

Who is the Broadway Investor?

An idea I don’t know how to execute. Maybe you do?

Ok, problem . . . theater tickets are too expensive.

Solution?  Who the @#$% knows?!?

(Actually, the truth is, there are plenty of inexpensive seats to lots of theater, from Off-off Broadway shows to Off-Broadway to yes, even to Broadway shows.  When people say theater tickets are too expensive, they’re generally talking about the most in-demand shows and the most in-demand seats on the most in-demand days.  Which is the equivalent of saying, “Mercedes-Benz is too expensive!  And Telsa, well, don’t even get me started!”  Know what I mean?  There are other cars to buy and plenty of incentives (i.e. discounts) that make that purchase more accessible.)

Don’t get me wrong, of course, I’d love to see even more affordable ways for people to see theater, wherever that is.  I’m often walking up and down the streets wondering how to get more butts in seats, while at the same time paying the high costs of our labor-intensive industry.  And the other day, while riding the subway, and watching someone play Mario Kart on their Samsung, I got an idea. . . that I have no effin’ idea what to do with.

So I thought I’d throw it out to all of you.

Another form of entertainment that’s super expensive?  Video games.  The Mercedes of this industry can be around $60 or higher per game.  Now, that may not seem like a lot compared to one orchestra ticket for Hamiltonbut when you consider the demographics of the video game purchaser, it might as well be the same.

And this is a special problem for mobile game manufacturers.  It has always been challenging to sell a game for a smartphone, because the functionality is less than a desktop, and frankly, there are so many free games available.

So what did the video game companies do?

They added in-game purchases.

You want special features for your character in your favorite middle-ages era role-playing game?  Buy ’em for $1.99.

You want to get a tip on your mobile trivia challenge?  $.99.

The gaming companies are getting you to in their doors for cheap (or nothing!) and then they find a way to charge you when you’re in the door.

Software companies even have “free versions” to get you hooked and when you want a special feature that makes the software actually function, BAM, you gotta pay.

I couldn’t but wonder if there was an application for this theory in the theater.  One could argue that food and beverage or merch income is a version of this idea in action (although on Broadway, we don’t control f&b – all that cash goes to the theater owner).  And certainly, we’re not going to stop a show to ask for $5.99 from every audience member to listen to the heroine sing a higher note than what is in the “free” version. (Although I’d love to see this at a charity gala . . . can you imagine waiting for someone to bid $10,000 for Idina Menzel to sing an optional higher note in “Let It Go“?)

What do you think?  Is there a way to get butts in seats for less, and then have additional and OPTIONAL income provided by those who want whatever ‘extra’ we have to offer?

I haven’t cracked this yet.  And maybe it shouldn’t be cracked.

But sometimes it’s the craziest of all ideas that morph into something that makes sense . . . and cents.

You have an idea?

 

An out-of-town tryout . . . in town.

Here are the hard facts about looking for a regional theater for your out-of-town tryout in the teen 2000s:

  1. They are hard to get. Just like a lot of shows are waiting to land a Broadway house, even more shows are waiting for their close-up out-of-town.  That means it’s getting even harder to secure one of the hotter tryout spots across the country thanks to the sheer volume of competition.
  2. You may have to wait for years. Regional theaters plan seasons well in advance, and from what I hear, they’re starting to do this further and further out, especially with their enhancement slots.  That means even if you are lucky enough to snag a coveted spot, you might be waiting two or three years for it to happen.  That means your option agreements may expire, your team may drift away, your cast may age out (!), etc.
  3. They are more expensive than ever. On my podcast, Des McAnuff, who helped build the whole idea of tryouts at regional theaters, called the current financial enhancement model around the country “dangerous.”  That’s because so many theaters are relying on these supplemented shows to help balance their budget.  And, like any smart business owner, as regional theaters have gotten more in-demand, their prices have gone up.  Can’t blame them, but it doesn’t stop your budget from ballooning.

So that’s just the way it is, right?

Wrong.

We’re never satisfied here at TPP and you shouldn’t be either.  The enhancement path was and still is, at times, a great one . . . but it may be time for a little innovation and a whole lotta disruption.

So, what do we do?

Here’s one idea.

Off Broadway is super challenging and unfortunately, much riskier than Broadway.  But, since the price of a first-class Off Broadway musical can be as much as a regional theater enhancement . . . why not produce it Off Broadway?  

You get the trial audience.  You get the reviews.  You get elements of the physical production you can take to the next step.

And it’s even easier for the Broadway theater owners to check you out if they’re interested.

And if it doesn’t work?  Well, your show is much more likely to be licensed or even go on tour if it’s played New York, rather than just played an out-of-town tryout.

Here’s the bonus . . . you won’t owe a regional theater 1-1.5%.

So, for the same budget, you actually own more of the show.  That makes it actually cheaper!

Downside?  You expose it to the critics early . . . but you’d be doing the same thing if you were trying out at The Public or any of the city-based Non-Profits.  And you’d take one of those if they came up, right?

With rising costs and a logjam of titles, producing your show in-town might be the only way to get your show up with a shot at Broadway, which makes it worth the risk in my book.

And it just might save Off Broadway in the process.

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