“Do you know the four best words in the English Language?” said one Tony Voter to another.
“No, what are the four best words in the English Language?” asked the second.
“90 minutes. No intermission.”
This is a real joke I’ve heard over a dozen times over the last few years, from industry and non-industry folks alike. And there’s no question that shorter shows have been “in” as the attention span of our consumers has shrunk since the days of the three-act play.
In fact, we proved that shows have been getting shorter in this post (complete with graphs and everything!).
And then there’s this season.
We’ve got a two-part, over seven-hour Angels in America that’s doing heavenly numbers. Then there’s the two-part, over two-and-half-hours each Harry Potter that’s working its box office magic. Not to mention the nearly three-hour musical revival up at the Lincoln Center and another ol‘ classic carouseling in at a similar time down here, plus that almost 4 hour Iceman has cometh again.
And they’re all doing just fine.
It would be a common sense thought for a writer or producer in 2018 to think, “My show has to be short.” But this season is a perfect reminder that there are no hard and steadfast rules in the theater, or in any business, for that matter. The moment you think one way, here comes a disruptor to make you think another.
So if your show is in 16 parts and runs 13 and a half weeks, that’s fine.
It just means that your show has to be that much better, and your word of mouth that much stronger, in order for you to overcome this pain point for a potential customer.