What Tiger Woods needs to learn about press.

El Tigre may know how to swing a club, but he’s pretty handicapped when it comes to knowing how to spin a story.

By now, the world is abuzz with what really caused the Tiger Woods 2:25 AM car crash outside his Floridian mansion.  Was he drunk?  Was he on drugs?  Was he on his way to meet another woman?  Did his wife beat the sand trap out of him for a prior affair?

Why all these questions?

Because he didn’t come out in front of the story.

Whether we like it or not, refusing to talk, pleading the fifth, or hiding behind an agent makes it look like you having something to hide, whether you do or not.

The moment that Tiger refused to talk to the police, the rumor mill went into overdrive, and the story started to spin out of control.  The second time?  The third?  Tiger has missed so many news cycles that whatever really happened is now going to get even more attention.

Obviously something serious is going on in the life of the world’s greatest golfer, and for that I’m very sorry.  But if Bill Clinton, Britney Spears, Alec Baldwin and the rest of the celebs in this world have taught us anything it’s that you can f-up and can be forgiven.

The best way to handle a press crisis of this nature for a celebrity or for a show is to come out in front of the story, and come out first.

As a producer, you want to own the story.  You want to control the story.  Hide from it, and the story will become bigger than it deserves to be.

Unless of course, you actually want the press.

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Stock and Amateur is the way to a “living” . . . but for whom?

There was a great article on the front page (!) of Variety this week (it’s rare that a theater story gets the cover) about the life after Broadway for musicals that may not have been so well received by The White Way.  (To be honest, the article seemed like a byline from a Dreamworks exec, because the article began by stating how DWorks was set to recover a chunk of their $26 million capitalization through national tours and high schools, therefore not making the past year and a half a total loss.)

The article went on to give specific examples of how a bunch of theatrical writers have earned a great deal of cash from shows that, for lack of a better word, flopped on Broadway.  Some of the shows mentioned were All Shook Up, Footloose, Seussical, and The Wedding Singer. 

Apparently, the success of the post-Broadway life of these shows has afforded the very talented writers of these musicals to keep on keeping on as theatrical writers.  Let’s all be thankful this Thanksgiving week for that!  Good writers writing is better for all of us.

But there is one thing about the article that bugged me a bit.

In the third paragraph, the author writes . . .

Community theaters and high school productions don’t produce the instant big bucks of Broadway and tours, but the royalties paid to creatives, producers and investors are pure profit . . .

Uhhh, hold up.

Profit to Producers?  I’m not so sure about that.

Let’s break down how this works a little more specifically.

Producer finds show.  Producer produces show.  Show fails on Broadway for what could be one or several of a billion reasons:  bad show, bad producing, bad timing, bad whatever.  Whatever the reason, investors lose millions.

There is much sadness.

(Now here’s where the Variety article comes in.)

Stock and amateur rights are sold to a company like Samuel French or MTI.

In most cases, the Authors receive 60% of all monies.  The show receives the other 40%.  (Sometimes this can be 70/30 or 50/50, depending on the number of years this agreement is in place.  At some point, however, the Authors will receive 100%).

So where does that 40% go?  Well, if the show has not recouped, then it goes straight to the investors in an effort to get them paid back.

In the case of most flops, as evidenced by the article’s description of the current financial situation of Footloose (hasn’t recouped despite healthy licensing), the shows still never recoup.

Since Producers only really make money when the shows recoup, this means that despite taking the risk in the first place, despite mounting the production that got the Stock and Amateur companies interested in the first place, the Producers get zip.

Doesn’t that seem a bit counter-intuitive?

And what if I added to this fact that it has become more traditional lately that Directors (on original musicals, mostly) get a piece of the S&A for their contribution to the long term viability of the show?

So here’s my question . . .

It truly is fantastic that the S&A money can keep our writers writing by helping to pay their rent or buy a 2nd home.  I want these guys working on shows so I can produce them.

But if the Producers aren’t getting anything to help pay their rent after a show flops, what is keeping them Producing?

Is this one of the main reasons why there are more career writers than career Producers?

Here’s my proposal:

Producers should get a small negotiated percentage (the exact number to be determined based on who originated the project, how much was completed before the Producer came on board) of all monies received by the Authors from stock and amateur . . . until recoupment.

I don’t want it forever.  If a show recoups, I’m good.  Keep it.  We’re all gonna be ok.

But if it doesn’t, Producers deserve a small piece to help keep them in the game.  Just like we are all better off with writers writing, we’re all better off with Producers producing.

Otherwise, Producers who produce shows that cost them money, time and investors (ever tried to raise money from a group of people after a show flops?), aren’t going to be too happy reading articles like this one.

If you were a Producer on one of the shows mentioned, how would you feel?

 

Broadway’s 2nd Quarter results: The season is half over. How we doin’?

It’s that time already, can you believe it?  Seems like just yesterday we were BBQing in our backyards and taking Summer Fridays.

And now look . . .

The temp has dropped, it gets dark at 4:30, and the Radio City Christmas Show is kicking again.  You know what that means?

We’ve reached the end of the 2nd Quarter of our Broadway Fiscal Year.

Week #26 of the Broadway season ended on Sunday, so let’s check and see how we’re doing!

Total gross sales for Quarter #2 were $242,217,564, which is UP (!) 5.9% over last year’s Q2 posting of $227,836,554.

All I have to say to this bit of news is thank you Mr. Jackman, Mr. Craig and Mr. Law (and the retiring company of God of Carnage, don’t forget).

So, we’re winning the second furlong, but where does this put us for the entire horse race of a season?

As you’ll remember from our Q1 analysis, our gross was down 3.2% and attendance was down a gi-normous 9.6%.  Thanks to our strong Q2, we’ve picked up ground.

The season gross tally thus far is $500,376.907, or up a marginal .4%.

Unfortunately, the disturbing spread in our gross and our attendance remains.

Last season we had put 6,125,872 butts in the seats.  This year, we’ve only put 5,806,155.

How will we do in Q3?

Unfortunately, I’m predicting some more slippage.  We will lose some ground over the next 13 weeks.  Those giant super power plays disappear soon, and I don’t see any other million-dollar shows on the horizon, do you?  And the shows killing with the critics (Ragtime, Finian’s) haven’t yet exploded at the BO.  (Sign of the economic times, or are the critics losing power even faster than we thought).

We need a big fat musical hit.

Will it be this?

The Shubert stimulus package.

Earlier this week, the theatrical royal family known as The Shuberts announced an unprecedented three year development deal with two commercial producers, Frederick Zollo and Robert Cole.  Zollo and Cole (has a nice ring, doesn’t it?) have been responsible for a bunch of shows between them including Angels in America, Chitty2 Bang2, and, this season, they teamed up like the Wonder Twins to produce a little event known as A Steady Rain.

The deal seems pretty simple.  Zollo and Cole get three years to develop projects and get dibs at Shubert theaters (one of the most challenging issues facing producers is how to develop a show without knowing if it will get a theater).  This first-look deal guarantees Z&C that their shows will have a home, and gives their artists the security that their work will be seen on a Shubert stage.  In addition, the Shuberts get first chance to invest, and they’ve given the guys some nice offices in the castle on 44th St.

What’s exciting about this deal is its similarity to the movie model.  The Shuberts have forged a relationship with producers that they trust, respect and that have done well for them; guaranteed them “distribution” (theater availability); and pledged financial support if the product is something they are interested in.  While the guys aren’t necessarily hired guns that are being paid to develop product, they have been given an incredible public demonstration of confidence and support from the largest landlord in the theatrical world.

Independent producers are so often out there on their own, flailing in the wind, trying to drum up interest for projects from artists, investors, etc,.and that is getting harder to do considering how risky of a proposition Broadway is.  When a producer can say that they have a contractual relationship with The Shuberts for developing new material that guarantees them a theater and possible investment, that goes a long way.

Look, Z&C are smart, successful, and powerful producers in their own right, so I’m sure they didn’t have problems getting their phone calls returned before this deal.  Still, I’d bet that they go up a few notches on everyone’s call list now.

This is a bold move, and a great one.  Let’s hope it’s successful for everyone, because if it is . . . they’ll be looking for more Producers to fill the offices in Shubert Castle.

My suggestion for the next deal?  Get someone from the Roth generation.

What happens when two competitors combine forces.

There are few industries like ours where our greatest friends can be our fiercest competitors.  It makes for some awkward opening night parties.

But look at what’s happening just a train ride away!

Where else but in the City of Brotherly Love have two competitors found a way to work together and help each other get through these tricky economic times.

The Philadelphia Theatre Company and The Wilma Theater activated their wonder-twin powers yesterday when they announced a “Best Of Broad Street” subscription package (the theatres are across the street from each other) that allows Philadelphians to create a season subscription by choosing two plays from one theatre and two plays from the other.

There used to be a time when people would subscribe to a season for one play/musical/event.  Sort of like going out to dinner, ordering a steak and taking whatever vegetables come along with it.

Not so anymore. People are pickier than ever, and if the whole meal isn’t appetizing, they’re staying at home and having cereal.

Kudos to the boards of these two forward-thinking institutions for crossing the street and meeting on the median.

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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