When will we come back and WHAT will come back.

It has officially been two weeks since the “social distancing guidelines” set by the Federal Government went into effect, and if one thing is clear from the confusing chatter coming from the Presidential pressers every day, it’s this . . .

It’s going to be a bit before the country opens back up, never mind Broadway.

As of yesterday, gone is the embarrassing goal of an Easter “re-opening” for the country with “packed churches.”  (I mean, I love setting lofty BHAGs, but anyone in the achievement space knows that setting an impossible goal only sets yourself up for failure – and failing at a goal makes it harder for you to achieve the next one . . . and harder for your followers to believe that you will achieve that next one.)

The next deadline for a re-examining of the social distancing guidelines, and therefore a determination of whether or not some businesses will reopen, (set again by the guy currently in the White House) is April 30th. 

But if you’re listening to Fauci, it’ll be longer.  Much longer.  And even though NY’s Governor Cuomo has kept non-essential workers home only through April 15th, he’s also acknowledging that NY has a bigger problem than anywhere else in the US – so how could it ever open up soon?

In the muck of all these differing opinions, one thing has become very clear to me . . .

Different sections of the country will open up at different times.

And more importantly, within those geographic locations, different types and sizes of businesses will open up at different times.

It’s common sense.

The idea of one day waking up and having it go back to the way it was six months ago, with Basketball games packin’ arenas and with OpenTable tellin’ us there wasn’t a reservation to be had at your favorite restaurant, is the kind of Hollywood happy ending that’s just not going to happen.

It’s just not going to be that kind of “Alexa, apartment lights on,” type of switch.

The virus didn’t shut everything in the country down in 24 hours and it won’t let us restart everything in 24 hours either.

It’s going to be gradual.

And it has to be.  As Cuomo (the only politician I’m listening to these days) said in one of his pressers, he does need to get the economy, any part of that economy, going again as soon as possible.  And the moment he can let ten people go to a meeting to discuss how to sell a product, he will. The moment he can let hundred people go to a restaurant, he will.

And the moment he can let 1,500 people go to a Broadway show, he will.

But I’m doubtful it’ll be all those things will be all at once.  And it shouldn’t be.

Which brings me to this . . .

Will Off-Broadway be allowed to open up before Broadway?

And could the 499-or-less theaters that fall within that definition, or even the Off-Off Broadway theaters (at 99 seats or less) get a boost of attention and ticket sales first . . . before the Broadway factory is allowed to be operational?

I’d bet money that smaller theaters will be given permission to open up before the larger ones.  That means they could be the sole producers of live theater in the city.  Usually these smaller theaters are getting Broadway’s hand-me-down audiences, but this could be one of the few chances they have to get the theater audience all to themselves. (This is exactly what happened during the last strike in 2007 – and the Off-Broadway shows I had running, including this one and this one, boomed as a result).

And maybe, this could be another steroid shot to the renaissance of Off-Broadway that began last year (which I wrote about here).

If I were an Off-Broadway theater . . . or was producing an Off-Broadway show, I’d look to see how I could have something ready to go for when we are allowed to gather again.  Because in the midst of this darkness, there just might be a chance to stand out.

Or as John F. Kennedy said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.”

– – – – –

Tonight at 8 PM on my nightly live stream, Tony Award-winner, Steven Sater, the bookwriter of Spring Awakening Watch on my Facebook page here.  And click here to see who else is joining us this week!

 

 

3 Marketing Lessons for Broadway from Super Tuesday.

Is it just me or is Super Tuesday the new Superbowl?  Ok, ok, maybe it’s the Playoffs, and Election Day itself is The Big Game.

But it certainly felt like a-must-see-sporting event Tuesday Night, as my wife and I snuggled on the couch, eating wings, and screaming out at the TV when there was a touchdown or even a “fumble” (Like that awkward moment when Joe Biden mistook his wife for his sister – I’m just glad he didn’t make an Arkansas joke after he did it).

As I hooted and hollered (I think I even did “the wave” at one point – my wife did not), I couldn’t help but notice there were some Broadway marketing lessons to be learned from the results.

Now, these are general takeaways, and are not about political affiliation, viewpoints, or any of that ire-instigating stuff, but they do apply . . . so here goes.

1. Whoever has been around the longest, has an advantage.

If you’re in a cluttered market, like this year’s democratic field, and there isn’t an obvious decision for the consumer/voter to make, they’ll default to the thing that has been around the longest.  Joe Biden won the night.  Why?  Partly because he’s been around the longest! He has run for President 3x now, so voters are used to seeing him in a field like this.  He has been a member of Congress even longer than Bernie.  And, of course, he was a VP.  In marketing-speak, he has the highest “awareness” or market penetration of any of the candidates . . . so it’s not surprising that he’s starting to gallop ahead.

TAKEAWAY:  In a recent study I did on Broadway shows, The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera were the two shows of all the shows on Broadway that had the highest awareness.  Why?  Because they had run the longest, of course.  And it’s no surprise that they are two of the most successful musicals . . . in history!  Long runs help perpetuate an even longer run.  So, get your show to run for a long time. 🙂 Or, the better takeaway is for those of you who want to make a career in the theater.  If you’re a Writer, Producer, Director or other TheaterMaker, keep on sloggin’ away.  Your Awareness will catch up too.  Remember how I said Joe ran from President TWICE before?  Yeah, those didn’t work out quite so well.  But he kept on runnin’.  And we’ll see what happens this time.  (And I’d expect Mayor Pete to be in 1, 2 or 17 more races until he notches a big win too.)

2. Endorsements matter.

My favorite phrase of the night from the CNN Color Commentators was “Joe-mentum.”  Made me spit out a buffalo wing.  But it’s true.  After Joe’s win in South Carolina (which was partly due to the endorsement from Jim Clyburn), he was speedin’ into Super Tuesday with some extra gas in the tank. . . and then he got those late-in-the-day endorsements from Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg . . . and then . . . blast off.  Getting other people to support your mission is an easy way to double or triple your base.

TAKEAWAY:  Get testimonials from your audience members, celebrities or any influencers out there. And don’t just put those quotes on your website, but get those folks to push their message about your show out to their audience.  However you can.  Yes, even if you gotta trade something or even pay ’em!   If you think Jim, Amy or Pete just gave Joe their endorsement without getting something in return (one of them has VP written all over their future), well, you should not be a politician . . . or a businessperson.  Because this is how the world works.  Reciprocity.  Give ’em something to get what you want!

3. Buying advertisements is effective but NEVER as effective as word of mouth.

I used to like Mike Bloomberg.  He did amazing things for NYC.  He runs his governments like a business, yet he goes after the NRA and other social reforms like he’s got a gun.  But, Mike proved that money can’t buy you everything. And, by the way, this isn’t the first time voters have rejected a politician trying to make up for their lack of awareness or poor word of mouth with cash.  They rejected billionaire Ross Perot.  Mitt Romney supplemented his campaigns with his own personal fortune.  That didn’t work.  And, now, it looks like Mike is against the ropes.  Actually makes you feel pretty good about the American people.  Spending more than 10x what your fellow candidates spend may get you in the race, but it can’t get you to win the race.  And kudos to Elizabeth Warren for reminding us all of this . . . even if it hurt her own cause.

TAKEAWAY:  Buying more advertising to “make up” for your late arrival to the market, or to overcome bad reviews or worse, bad word of mouth (those debate performances, Mike – and what did you do that required those NDAs anyway?) may improve your standing, but it won’t guarantee your rise to the top. So don’t let advertising agencies convince you otherwise.  As the above proves, getting your show to run a long, long time and getting positive word of mouth is much more important than spending $100 million.

This race is only just getting interesting . . . so you can bet I’ll be back over the next 7 months with more comparisons of Political Theater to actual Theater.  But I promise . . . NO discussion of actual politics. 🙂

What do you think about the strategies candidates use to marketing themselves?  Comment below.

And if you want to learn more about political marketing and how we can use their strategies to help our own businesses, check out the smart blog of this actual political marketer.  (Yep, candidates hire marketing companies too.)

If you read only ONE blog of mine this year, make it THIS one.

It has been quite a couple of weeks.

And no, I’m not talking about disappointing box office figures.

I’m talking about Tropical Storm Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

I watched CNN over the past week or two with my mouth agape, as I watched people swimming in rivers where roads should be, and holing up in shelters, praying their homes would be standing upon their return.

And then I thought, “And yesterday I was worried about how we didn’t sell as many tickets to see a musical comedy?”

The irony of all of this is that I’m in pre-production for Once On This Islanda show about how to rebuild a community after a great storm.

So, in that spirit, I’d like to ask three requests:

1 – Count your blessings.  If you weren’t affected by these two natural disasters, you’re lucky.  Sure, traffic sucks.  Someone didn’t call you back.  Your show hasn’t been produced (yet).  But you’re lucky.  There are millions of people whose lives and livelihoods are in absolute chaos right now.

2 – Make a $10 donation to The Red Cross.  (That’s like two Starbucks!)  Just text REDCROSS to 90999 and donate $10 right now.  (Or click here to donate more.)

3 – Give good thoughts.  Whether you call it a prayer or positive energy, send it down to those who were affected, so they can rebuild and come out of this stronger than ever.

The theater is an amazing thing.  It is designed to entertain, to educate, and to heal.  So it is important that all of us continue to do what we do, no matter what is happening out there in the world.

But, it’s also important to remember that our tiny troubles with tap shoes and top hats are nothing compared to what so many others are going through right now.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 right now.

Will the Casting Directors be next up to go union?

 

If you follow me on the ol’ Twitter, then you probably caught my tweet last week about the recent flare-up between the Casting Directors, who are now repped by the Teamsters, and the Broadway League.

The CDs want union representation.  More specifically, from the sound of this article, they just really want some health insurance (and maybe some retirement benes as well).

(On a side note/rant – do you know how many fights in this country could be avoided if we just had a health insurance program that focused on wellness instead of turning a profit?  We should start calling it Wealth Insurance, for goodness sake.)

I’m not going to get into the debate of whether or not the CDs should get a union pin because I’ve got a lot of learning to do on the subject first.  But since their press release came on the heels of the announcement of Broadway’s record-breaking year (smartly timed, Teamsters, smartly timed), I can’t help but draw attention (or re-attention, actually) to my blog about those end of the year grosses.

See, Broadway is crushing it in terms of ticket sales.  No question.  It’d be foolish for anyone to deny the super-sized grosses that some shows are getting.

But the proof is in the recoupment, not in the overall box office totals.

And the fact is, shows are not recouping more often or faster than they ever have.

So what’s happening?

The blockbusters are getting more profitable.  Or, to put in political speak, the already-rich are getting even richer.

The rest of the market is struggling . . . and struggling like it never has before.

What does that have to do with the price of tea in a Casting Director’s office?

Because it is time to realize that a massive Mason-Dixon line is forming on Broadway, drawn between two sides:  the have multi-million dollars a week grosses . . . and the have nots.  And when deals are cut based on only looking at the top of the market . . . the middle of the market, where the gutsy stuff by newer artists may be happening . . . gets squished.

It’s too bad there isn’t a way for deals, with unions, vendors, creatives, et al. to be predicated on success.  If you hit a gusher, you pay more.  If you struggle, you pay a fair wage.  You know, like how taxes should be.

Yeah, it’s too bad that isn’t possible.

Wait.  Someone tell me why that isn’t possible again?

 

 

Could this new play’s NY debut be the start of a trend?

A press release wound its way into my inbox a few weeks ago, trumpeting the NY debut of a brand new play by a Pulitzer (!) and Tony Award-winning playwright and featuring some nice Hollywood names in the cast.

“I wonder what Broadway theater they’re playing,” I muttered as I read the release.

And then I realized they weren’t playing Broadway at all.

“I wonder what high-fallutin’ non-profit theater they’re playing,” I said, coming to what could only be the next logical convention of how this new play would land in New York.

And then I realized they weren’t playing a non-profit either.

Nope.  Building The Wall, the brand new, super timely, already-rave-reviewed new play by Robert Schenkkan (All The Way, Hacksaw Ridge), starring James Badge Dale (“The Pacific,” The Departed) and everyone’s favorite forensic detective Tamara Tunie (“Law and Order: SVU”) will open at a commercial (!) Off Broadway theater this summer for a strictly limited engagement of 10 weeks only.

The play, which was written as a response to the current administration, has already started rolling out around the country.  It’s obvious that the super smart strategy by the author, the author’s agents, and the producers, was to get the play out in the world as fast as possible, to as many theaters as possible.

And with the current real estate crisis on Broadway, with no theaters available on a moment’s notice, and with non-profits planning their seasons years in advance there was only one option left to satisfy that strategy.

Commercial Off Broadway.

I have been touting the theory that Off Broadway might boom as a result of the real estate crunch for awhile now, and I’m happy to see the first real example of it happening with Building The Wall.  When A-list creative teams and A-list actors start showing up Off Broadway again just to do great work, audiences will follow.

And commercial Off Broadway just might wake up from the coma it’s been in for the last decade or so.

– – – – –

Want to learn how to get your show from the page to the stage? Join my community of theater professionals on TheProducersPerspectivePRO, plus get instant access to 30+ hours of training, monthly newsletters and networking opportunities, producer contact lists, and so much more! To join TheProducersPerspectivePROclick here!
Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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