Last week, the Producers of the upcoming (and from what I hear, wonderful) new musical Tuck Everlasting, announced they were postponing its pre-Broadway Boston tryout due to the lack of an available Broadway houses this fall.
And unlike some other shows that have used that excuse, these Producers actually meant it.
I’ve always said that finding a Broadway theater for your show is like landing a plane at JFK on Thanksgiving Weekend. You’re probably going to have to circle for awhile until you find the right runway.
Well, Tuck couldn’t even take off.
It has always been hard to find that Broadway home . . . but it is true . . . it’s getting harder.
Well, in modern times, when a show is a hit, it runs a Tuck of a lot longer. Shows from the 1950s-70s didn’t run for uh . . . DECADES! And now they do.
Phantom, Mamma Mia (which just announced a move to another theater to stretch out its run), Lion King, Wicked . . . where are these shows going? Hmmm? That’s why I postulated in this blog that we’d never have another “dark era” on Broadway again (although sometimes I think we could use a market correction, just like the stock market needs to blow off a little steam every once in a while).
But let’s get back to that availability issue to determine just how hard it is, shall we?
If you’re a Producer with a brand new show looking for a house for your new musical, you have 40 to choose from, right?
Well, there are 40 Broadway houses, yes, so let’s start with that.
Subtract the Disney house, because . . . come on, they’re always going to have something.
Now subtract the 5 non-profit houses and that leaves you with . . .
Now subtract 16 for the long running musicals that aren’t going anywhere in the next 2-5 years. (Already this season we’ve added 4-5 to that list that are going to be holed up for quite awhile (including my Kinky Boots!)
Only 18 remain! Less than 50% of the Broadway theaters on the market are actually in play.
And hold on, I’m not done with my math just yet.
From those 18, subtract 4 for the shows that have been announced for the coming year, taking those houses off the market as well.
And we’re down to 14!
Now, insiders tell me that 3 more of those are out of the running for the ’13-14 season with handshake deals for yet-to-be-announced but firm bookings by powerhouse producers.
And just like that, we’ve got eleven left. Just 11.
Look, something always falls out, or unexpectedly closes, right? So for margin of error’s sake, let’s add back 1 to get to an even dozen.
A dozen. That’s right, if you’re a Producer of a brand new musical looking for a house in the coming year or so, you’ve got just a dozen to choose from.
Certainly you can find one that works for you out of that carton of eggs, right?
Well hold your press releases, Producer, because here’s the biggest rub of them all.
Those twelve remaining houses have an average capacity of . . . 1083.67.
And this is the Tuckin’ problem.
The theaters that remain are mostly play houses . . . and they lack the capacity to be able to support larger musicals at today’s cost of producing a musical (unless prices go up dramatically).
What does this mean?
Well, we’re just about maxed out on big musicals . . . there just isn’t a lot of room for them right now. Give us another season or two like this one and even the couple of remaining big barns will be eaten up as well. And then what?
And that’s my biggest takeaway from this mathematical exercise.
Despite the fact that Broadway audiences love big shows, If I was developing a musical right now (oh wait, I’m developing 3), I’d focus on small to medium shows; shows that I know can fit in a smaller house. And I’d start telling my creative team now . . . “we’re most likely going to have to fit in a smaller box than we would have thought, so let’s make sure we start thinking creatively on how to handle that now, so we’re not circling the airport forever.”
Otherwise, you could end up be Tuckin’ homeless.
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