Overheard at Angus Vol. X: How a title can change over time.

Ok, this “overheard” entry didn’t happen at Angus.  It happened in Massachusetts about a week ago, when my Mom took one of her grandkids, a second grader, to see a show at the local theater.  The show?  Annie Get Your Gun.

Here’s what happened:

My Mom:  Did you like the show?

Grandkid:  I really did, Grammy Pammy (My mom’s name is Pam, so . . . )

My Mom:  Oh Good.  I’m glad.

Grandkid:  I didn’t think I was going to like it at all.

My Mom:  Really?  Why not?

Grandkid:  Because I didn’t think it was going to be appropriate for kids my age.

My Mom:  How come?

Grandkid:  Grammy . . . it’s called Annie, Get Your Gun.  That doesn’t sound like something a kid should see.

Amazing, right?  First, that a 2nd grader would even know what the word “appropriate” means . . . and second, that a show that you and I know definitely qualifies as a family show, could be considered something completely different because of the time we live in and because the next generation didn’t grow up on it.

I told my Mom to take her grandkid to Little Shop of Horrors next.


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Overheard at Angus: Volume IX

There has been a lot of talk about marriage this weekend (and
congratulations to everyone, btw – even though I’m a Red Sox fan, I was a very proud New Yorker on Friday night).

Because of all this chatter, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of the conversation I overheard between two Producers, one of whom has a show slated for production soon:

Producer #1:  I’m thinking about getting married again.  But I’m not sure.

Producer #2:  How come?

Producer #1:  I did it once. It didn’t work out.  And it’s hard.

Producer #2:  It sure is hard.  But when you get it right, it’s magical.

Producer #1:  Huh.

Producer #2:  What?

Producer #1:  Sounds like producing a Broadway show.

Producer #2:  Yeah.  (beat)  And you’re doing that again, aren’t you?

Producer #1:  (laughs)  I guess so.  Thanks.

Producer #2:  Sure.

Producer #1:  You know, marriage and producing have another thing in common.

Producer #2:  What’s that?

Producer #1:  They’re both expensive.

It took all my might to bite my tongue and not run up to these guys to try to option this scene!  But I didn’t. I just sat back and remembered that if you want a big reward, you gotta risk big . . . and you gotta be willing to work harder than you ever have in your life.

And if you don’t want to work hard, then do us all a favor, and do something else.


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Overheard at Angus: Volume VIII

There was an interesting article in the business section of the Times a week or so ago about a new airplane seat that debuted at the Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas trade show (and yes, that is a real convention, which further demonstrates that there is a convention for every subject under the sun).

The seat wasn’t really a seat. It was a stand-up seat that put the traveler in a sort-of-squatting position, which allows for more seats in smaller spaces.

Well, from what I overheard last week, it looks like I wasn’t the only theater guy who read that article:

Theater Guy #1:  Did you hear about that standing airplane seat?

Theater Guy #2:  No.

Theater Guy #1:  It’s like a crouching-tiger type of seat, with a lot less leg room, so you can fit more people in the plane.

Theater Guy #2:  That’s nothing new.

Theater Guy #1:  What?  You’ve seen them before?  What airline?

Theater Guy #2:  Not on an airline.  I’ve seen them in every theater on Broadway.

I laughed, of course, because I thought the same thing when I read the article.

And, then, I started thinking about our consumers and other live event producers, like movie theaters and sports franchises.

Movies have gotten more comfortable over the years, with seats that lean back, cup holders, etc.  Sports stadiums have been demolished and rebuilt, and places like Citi Field have become attractions even without the baseball.

We, on the other hand, with the need to become more financially solvent, have stuffed more seats in theaters of all different shapes and sizes, and we still don’t have enough bathrooms.

Not much can be done about most of this, because our theaters are too historical to demolish, and too expensive to rebuild (I don’t see The Palace moving to Flushing anytime soon).  The cost of keeping them the way they are has to be pretty dang steep.

But it made me think . . . how can we continue to ensure we can put butts in seats, if those butts are more comfortable in seats at other venues?

Overheard at Angus: Volume VII

I eavesdropped on a couple of veteran producers the other day, one of whom was obviously in negotiations over a theater for an upcoming show.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Veteran #1:  I’m thinking of letting the audience drink during the show like they do at Rock of Ages.

Veteran #2:  Why not? Everyone’s doing it.  I bought my wife a sippy cup full of wine at Jersey Boys just last month. Boy are those theaters making more in bar revenue than ever before. The wine was 11 dollars!

Veteran #1:  11 dollars?

Veteran #2:  Yeah.  I had to ask them if it included a facility fee.

This conversation was funnier in person (partly because of the awesome pair of tweed pants Veteran #2 was wearing), but it also made me remember one of the downsides to capitalism in industries with challenging models.

The facility fee was tossed on top of ticket prices years ago to defray the costs of renovation, upkeep, etc. of these historic buildings.  It was getting more expensive to keep them in shape, so the theaters needed another revenue stream to offset some of the costs.

Now, at some shows, bar revenues are sky-high as drinking in your seats is encouraged.  I’d bet there is some serious found money being counted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this economic windfall was passed back to the consumer by eliminating the facility fee?

Or what about upping the price of the sippy cups by .50, as a drink tax (like a cigarette tax), and putting that towards the theater renovations, etc, making it an optional expense?

Doubt it’ll happen.  Once an income line hits your books, it’s hard to get it to disappear, even if 10 other lines follow it.

And that’s too bad . . . because the lines at our box office may suffer because of it.

Overheard at Angus: Volume VI.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken you all on a trip to Angus to hear what’s being gossiped over lunch or pre-theater din-din.

The last time I was having my usual burger, my dining partner and I heard this little gem of a conversation being bandied about over a couple of brandies.  Knowing (as you do) my affinity for focus groups and research, I think you’ll see why I felt I had to pass it on to all of you.

Brandy Drinker #1:  I just did a focus group for one of my shows.  Learned some great stuff.

Brandy Drinker #2:  I just did one, too.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Oh yeah?  Which company did you use to run them?

Brandy Drinker #2:  I did them myself.

Brandy Drinker #1:  You what?  How’d you do that?

Brandy Drinker #2:  Simple.  I have a 15-year-old daughter.  I took her and ten of her 15-year-old friends out to dinner.  I told them about the show that I was doing, and then I asked, “Would you stamp your feet until your parents took you to see it?”

Brandy Drinker #1:  What did they say?

Brandy Drinker #2:  They said they wouldn’t stamp their feet.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Oh.  That’s too bad.

Brandy Drinker #2:  Not really.  They said they would tell their parents that they hated them unless they got them tickets.

Brandy Drinker #1:  Next round is on you.