What Is The Broadway Musical Recoupment Rate Over The Last 5 Years. Part I.

Since I started working in the business of bway, I keep finding my way back to the same ol’ stat.

1 out of 5 shows recoup their investment (or 20%).

That’s what they told me in 1993.  That’s what I hear they were telling people in 1983.  And that’s what I used as the basis for this book.

But what about TODAY?  Certainly, this percentage has changed over the last few years, especially because of the rise of premium pricing, and the record-breaking box office numbers we’ve been touting with trumpets.

I was curious, so I dug into the data again, and took a look at all of the musicals (we left out the plays this time around) that have opened in the last five years to determine how many have recouped and how many have not.

What did we find?

Drumroll, please . . .

The percentage of Broadway musicals that have recouped in the last half decade is . . . 20.45%.

Remarkable, isn’t it?  The number is the same dang number it has always been.

It’s like Pareto’s Principle . . . just always comes out that way (It may be more closely related to Pareto than we think . . . because it is literally 80/20).

What’s comforting about that consistency is that it’s . . . well . . . consistent.  So as we continue to create economic models for our shows and our business, we pretty much know what we’re working with.  And for those in the Broadway Investing game, who are looking to learn not only how to invest, but how to improve their success rate, they can be confident that they know the odds . . . and can make more intelligent bets (just like the great stock pickers, horse handicappers, and poker players).

What’s not comforting about this consistency (you knew this was coming, didn’t you), is that it has NOT improved over the last decade.  In a period when grosses have increased by 34% (!), profitability has not.

Imagine that for any other industry or business.  If you had a store selling t-shirts, and your sales had that kind of double-digit increase in that limited time, you’d be buying your own private island by now.

But not Broadway.


Two reasons:

  1. Our costs have increased tremendously over the same period.  As grosses have gone up, so have our expenses.  Advertising, theater rent, technology, more staff, etc,  It all adds up.  It costs more to put on a show than it did a decade ago.  A lot more.
  2. The bulk of that double-digit gross increase is in the big fat blockbusters (The Hamiltons, Lion Kings, etc.).  So those shows may be more profitable, but the shows in the middle of the market, aren’t getting to the black.  And the shows at the low end of the market, are losing more than they used to.

While I’ve always been fighting for ways to increase the number of shows that recoup across our industry, the consistency of this 20% may very well be a law of theatrical nature that we can’t change (and I’ll just have to make sure my own portfolio of shows beat the market – and so far we are doing better than 20%).

Instead of increasing the 20%, we may need to turn our efforts to making sure this 20% doesn’t go the other direction.  See, with booming grosses that grab all the headlines, comes more folks with their hands out.

But as you can see in the recoupment rate of the last ten years, just because we’re making more, doesn’t mean we’re making more.  And we need to make sure everyone, from agents to investors, understand that.

Now . . . what shows are making up that XX% in the last ten years?  Well, that’s where it really gets interesting, and may just help you pick a winner.

But we’ll save that for Part II, next week.

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Interested in learning more about recoupment rates and how Broadway Investing works?  Read the only book ever written on the subject.  Check out Broadway Investing 101 here.


Broadway Grosses w/e 01/12/2020: Broadway still in hibernation

While the weather was trying to tell us otherwise last weekend, it’s certainly still January on Broadway. Grosses fell a steep 28% last week to $31M. 

Much of the drop was a result of several shows closing last week. But with 19 shows dropping six figures off their weekly gross, the rest of the winter looks grim. When’s spring break again?

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:

Show Name Gross  TotalAttn  %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A SOLDIER’S PLAY $305,205.00 4,901 84.97% $62.27
AIN’T TOO PROUD $1,266,884.40 10,168 89.26% $124.60
ALADDIN $1,159,820.60 13,230 95.76% $87.67
AMERICAN UTOPIA $1,106,070.00  5,764 99.97% $191.89
BEETLEJUICE $1,243,994.07 12,110 101.39% $102.72
CHICAGO $647,410.10 7,262 84.05% $89.15
COME FROM AWAY $923,883.60 8,505 101.64% $108.63
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,106,753.20 7,993 101.54% $138.47
FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME $1,062,219.00 6,218 101.60% $170.83
FROZEN $1,052,392.50 12,850 95.38% $81.90
GRAND HORIZONS $213,547.32 3,473 74.21% $61.49
HADESTOWN $1,175,197.00 7,445 101.38% $157.85
HAMILTON $2,763,874.00 10,755 101.54% $256.99
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $1,153,186.00 12,976 100.00% $88.87
JAGGED LITTLE PILL $1,062,058.00 9,092 101.02% $116.81
MEAN GIRLS $890,812.60 9,292 94.82% $95.87
MOULIN ROUGE! $1,859,181.00 10,451 100.34% $177.90
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON $478,414.40 4,365 96.53% $109.60
OKLAHOMA! $555,451.10 5,145 98.79% $107.96
SLAVE PLAY $588,514.10 6,178 97.38% $95.26
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,097,362.50 8,332 99.47% $131.70
THE INHERITANCE $501,028.50 5,380 64.17% $93.13
THE LION KING $1,610,115.00 12,756 94.02% $126.22
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $801,986.02 9,112 70.97% $88.01
THE SOUND INSIDE $630,651.00 6,671 83.55% $94.54
TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL $1,572,756.00 11,679 98.77% $134.67
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $1,516,362.14 11,531 100.44% $131.50
WEST SIDE STORY $1,443,410.34 12,180 100.00% $118.51
WICKED $1,337,825.00 13,287 91.91% $100.69
TOTALS $31,126,364.49 259,101 93.96% $118.82
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON + $592,219.42      

Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, President of Architect Theatrical. Find out more here!

My Broadway Predictions For 2030.

When thinking ahead to future years, the first thing that most people do is calculate their age.

Come on, you know you do it.   How old will you be in 2030?

I’ll be 57.  My daughter will be 12.  (God help me.)

So . . . how old will Broadway be?

Well, there is a big debate about when Broadway began . . . some say it started when the first theater opened down on Nassau street in 1750 (!).  But since that venue was only 280 seats I’d say that’s when Off Broadway began (Yep, Off Broadway preceded Broadway – if that’s possible give them monikers).  Others say Broadway began when the first 2,000-seat venue was built in 1798.

But I put the birthday at the opening of The Black Crook in 1866 which is considered by most to be the first musical, and the first long-running show (it ran for 474 performances – and it was also five and a half hours long!).

That would make Broadway 154 years old in 2030.  How do you think she’ll hold up at that age?  What will she look like?

Last week, I blogged about my top favorite Broadway stories for 2019, and now I’m going to give you five of my crystal ball-like predictions for what I believe will happen on Broadway by 2030!

Let me just say a few chants, sprinkle some sage around my computer, and channel my inner psychic-friends-network.

Here we go, in no particular fortune-tellin’ order:

  1.  Hard Tickets will be extinct.
    Honestly, these will probably be gone well before 2030, but by the end of the decade you definitely won’t ever need a print out of a ticket . . . or, well, anything, for that matter.  In other industries, fingerprints and facial recognition will probably get you access to whatever it is you paid for.  We’ll still be lagging behind (like we always do), but we definitely won’t have those little slips of cardstock anymore.  Sorry, scalpers.
  2. 90% of shows will be recorded and streamed.
    In 2030, we’ll finally figure out the economic model that allows for shows to be distributed via video, providing another revenue stream for the Authors, Actors, Investors, etc.  Now, exactly hen Producers allow the streaming to happen (during the run or only after?) will still be debated.  But we’ll crack the code . . . partly because we’ll have to.  Because if the cost of producing (and you don’t need to be a bloggin’ fortune teller to predict that), we’ll need the additional income to keep our recoupment.  (The missing 10% by the way is for the stars and artists who just never want what they’ve done on video, for whatever reason.)
  3. A woman will be running a theater chain.
    This is not only a prediction, this is a call to action.
  4. Chat boards will cease to exist.
    Gossip won’t, so all those folks who love theater so much they want to talk about it all day, when they probably should be working (or making theater themselves), will have to find a new place to chat.  And they will, because nothing stops passionate people who want to talk Broadway. I know, I was a rec.arts.theater.newsgroup guy back in 1991.   (Remind me to tell you how I met Jeff Marx, the lyricist of Avenue Q online back then.)
  5. Our recoupment rate will stay the same.You’re going to see some data on this in next week’s blog, but Broadway has been recouping 20% of its shows for a long time (despite the fact that our grosses have increased substantially).  As much as I’d like to say we’re going to find a path to more prolific profitability over the next ten years, I doubt it.  We’re a risky industry.  Less risky that most industries in our category, actually, as I talk about here.  Our job may actually be to prevent it from our recoupment rate going the other direction (something else I’m going to talk about next week).Oh, and a bonus prediction . . .
  6. Hamilton will still be running.

So, what do you think of ’em?  Agree?  Disagree?  Got your own predictions?  Mention them in the comments below.

And if you are interested in some other predictions I’ve made in the past, check out my TedXBroadway talk here, which I did in 2012, and predicted 20 years ahead.  Some of the stuff has already come true.



Broadway Grosses w/e 01/05/2020: Great start of the year with some great endings…

While grosses took an expected 23% drop last week, many shows (22 at 97% capacity or higher) played to sold-out audiences. 

We bid farewell to seven shows last week including the long-running Waitress which went out on a high of $1,316,747.

You can find the rest of the figures below, courtesy of The Broadway League:


Show Name Gross  TotalAttn  %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A CHRISTMAS CAROL $418,555.50           4,744 69.93% $88.23
A SOLDIER’S PLAY $286,010.20           4,932 97.72% $57.99
AIN’T TOO PROUD $1,507,514.00         11,022 86.00% $136.77
ALADDIN $1,807,150.60         13,622 98.60% $132.66
AMERICAN UTOPIA $1,237,143.50           6,709 99.73% $184.40
BEETLEJUICE $1,435,799.00         10,680 102.19% $134.44
CHICAGO $883,804.75           7,918 91.64% $111.62
COME FROM AWAY $1,073,381.00           8,544 102.10% $125.63
DEAR EVAN HANSEN $1,245,047.10           7,995 101.56% $155.73
DERREN BROWN: SECRET $661,050.00           6,005 84.43% $110.08
FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME $971,364.82           5,971 97.57% $162.68
FROZEN $1,397,781.50         13,453 99.86% $103.90
GRAND HORIZONS $151,060.91           3,319 70.92% $45.51
HADESTOWN $1,451,289.00           7,447 101.40% $194.88
HAMILTON $3,194,411.00         10,757 101.56% $296.96
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, PARTS ONE AND TWO $1,602,106.00         12,976 100.00% $123.47
JAGGED LITTLE PILL $1,113,294.99           8,951 99.46% $124.38
MEAN GIRLS $1,297,302.75           9,746 99.45% $133.11
MOULIN ROUGE! $2,085,753.50         10,469 100.51% $199.23
MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON $65,298.00              619 95.82% $105.49
OKLAHOMA! $521,043.80           5,025 96.49% $103.69
SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW $570,731.75           6,777 80.30% $84.22
SLAVE PLAY $541,915.80           6,017 94.85% $90.06
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,409,907.30           8,605 102.73% $163.85
THE ILLUSIONISTS – MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS $1,268,153.00         11,519 69.76% $110.09
THE INHERITANCE $409,319.50           4,935 58.86% $82.94
THE LIGHTNING THIEF $655,762.19           8,298 96.67% $79.03
THE LION KING $2,493,061.00         13,431 98.99% $185.62
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,375,933.82         11,167 99.39% $123.21
THE SOUND INSIDE $447,916.00           5,511 69.03% $81.28
TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL $1,588,633.00         10,381 100.34% $153.03
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD $1,724,760.00         11,585 100.91% $148.88
TOOTSIE $955,611.30         10,827 84.48% $88.26
WAITRESS $1,316,747.00           8,444 101.00% $155.94
WEST SIDE STORY $1,730,917.00         13,920 100.00% $124.35
WICKED $2,200,110.00         15,358 99.68% $143.25
TOTALS $43,095,640.58    317,679 93.16% $129.02
+/- THIS WEEK LAST SEASON +$5,565,367.40      


Today’s blog was guest-written by Ryan Conway, President of Architect Theatrical. Find out more here!

The 3 Most Important Ingredients for Broadway (or any kind of) Swag.

Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘swag’ before, you’ve still probably gotten tons of it throughout your life.

Pens, t-shirts, notebooks, and more, emblazoned with a company logo,  are just a few of the thousands of products available that brands giveaway to try and keep their products at the top of your mind.

Look through your desk drawer or purse right now.  Go on. Do it. I bet you’ve got something that some company gave you.

Well, let me rephrase that . . .

If the company that was marketing to you knew what they were doing when picking their promotional item, then you’ve got something some company gave you.

If you’ve got nothing, then make sure those companies read this blog.

See, swag, or “promotional giveaway items,” are an essential part of any marketing campaign, whether you’re promoting a Broadway show or a bank.  And a couple of days ago, I posted a photo on Instagram of a promo piece I got more than a decade ago (!) that is a great example of the type of product you should pick when promoting your show.  (What was that product? Click here and follow me to find out!)

The Insta pic got a bunch of likes and responses, which told me that I should do a deeper dive into what the most important things are that you should think about when picking a product to market your show.

Here are my Top 3 things I think about when I pick a piece of swag for my show.

1. Is it something my primary demographic would use every day?

Promo items work best when they are useful . . . not fancy.  They don’t have to be expensive. They need to be something that my customers will need . . . but (and here’s the real win if you can figure this out) they don’t want to pay for. Great examples that I’ve used in the past are travel kleenex packs (for Godspell – they said “Bless You” on them), nail files, chapstick, hand sanitizer, suntan lotion, etc.

Clever and “cool” promotional items that only get used once and aren’t part of a normal routine of your customer’s day will just get tossed.  Remember, you are giving these away.  So the customer already has assigned a value of ZERO to it.  They will have no problem throwing whatever it is you give them in the trash . . . and your logo along with it.  #NotGood

2. Is it something my primary demographic would see every day?

Where does this item live?  If you can pick something that would sit on a desk . . . in eyesight . . . then your logo will slowly seep into your customer’s mind. Mousepads, post-it note pads, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets that double as a to-do list or grocery list, etc. are all good examples of items-in-eyesight.

3. Is it something my primary demographic would keep?

The right piece of swag can be one of the lowest advertising investments you ever make that has the greatest return.  Some of these things cost pennies! Yet, if you can get your customer to keep them around for months or years (like Spamalot did with me), then the value of the investment only increases! That’s why, when you look at the options above, some of the examples that would run out quickly are NOT the best choices.  Because ideally, your item lasts and lasts and lasts.

We did Magic 8 Balls for this show.  You can bet I’ll do some of Joy’s hangers for her show (see here).

Ask yourself the three questions above when picking your promo item and you’ll be guaranteed to have something that subtly markets your show without your customer even knowing it’s happening.

And yes, try as best as you can to come up with something unique that is on message with the brand of your show (those Magic 8 Balls for the show about advice or my Godspell kleenex) . . . but unique isn’t the most important ingredient for swag.  Usefulness is.

What is your favorite piece of swag that you’ve given or received?

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Want more marketing tips?  Click here to learn best practices about marketing your show and more at the TheaterMakersStudio.