Broadway Grosses w/e 2/3/2019: Going Deep for the Deep Freeze

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending February 4, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

Broadway Grosses w/e 01/20/2019: Dodging the First Snow of 2019

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending January 21, 2018.
The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League
Read more here:

5 Things I Learned About The London Theater Scene At My Social.

Now that was fun.

So, I’ll admit.  I’ve done about a dozen of my “socials” around the world over the past 10 years and five minutes before the start of each and every one, I panic.  And I think two things:

  1.  “I know we have a ton of people on the RSVP list, but what if no one comes?”
  2. “What if everyone DOES come and no one has any fun?”

You’d think I’d have learned by now this simple truth . . . when you put a bunch of passionate theater people in a room, you can’t NOT have fun.

That’s why our London social this past Tuesday was a blast, as you can see in these photos.  Old friends were reunited.  New friends were made.

I even gave three people March 15th deadlines for their projects and told them they had to email me to let me know they’ve accomplished their goals by then or I’d publicly shame them right here on this blog.  (You know who you are.  I haven’t forgotten.  Tick tock, mates.)

And most importantly, I know several folks that scheduled follow-up coffee dates to talk about how they can work together.

That’s the coolest.  In fact, someone asked me what my goal was for throwing the social . . . and I said, “That a lot of people get together for coffee afterward.”

But I lied.

That wasn’t my only goal.  The truth is, one of the reasons that I bribed all these smart, talented, and driven Brits with free drinks is because I wanted to learn about the emerging London theater scene!

And learn I did.  So here, in no particular order, are five things I learned about the scene . . .

1. THEY’VE GOT MORE $ FOR SHOWS.

More than one emerging producer came up to me and said they loved working in London because it was easy to get $10-$15k grants to do small shows.  It just sounded so simple.  And it sounded like that kind of cash could produce our equivalent of an Equity Showcase here in the states.  We’ve all heard about how the big behemoth theater companies like The National get great governmental support, but it sounds like it trickles down to all levels.  It’s like the government knows that supporting emerging producers is smart because Producers who produce hire hundreds and hundreds of people (if not more) over the course of their career.  Investing in them actually helps stimulate the economy and the arts.

2. THEY’VE GOT LOTS OF AMERICANS THERE.

I was shocked to hear as many American accents amidst all the small talk.  It seems that several of them (most who crossed the pond for undergrad and graduate degrees) knew something we don’t (See #1).  They’re probably going to curse my name for revealing the big secret (sorry, guys), but they all seemed to LOVE living and working in London town.  One of my favorite answers to my query of why they enjoyed being there so much was, “The theatrical history in this town.  It’d just such a part of the culture.”

3. THEIR CHALLENGES ARE THE SAME AS OURS.

While sure, there may be more grants, but raising money was a big concern.  They were talking about finding agents, finding directors, getting Producers to read their scripts . . . or for the Producers in the room, finding writers with great scripts!  (We hooked a few people up for sure.)  So for all of your Theater Makers, wherever you are, I’ve never felt more confident in saying this . . . You are not alone.  And I promise that we’ll keep doing these kinds of things in order to unite this tribe of Dream Makers.

4. THEY LOVE BROADWAY.

Even though the UK is the home of Shakespeare and some of their theaters were built before we even had a country, they’ve got tremendous respect for what we do here in the US and on Broadway. They follow it closely, which was impressive considering how far away we are and that several of them had never been.  But one of ’em knew more of what was going on than I did. (Special thanks to the internet for making it feel like you can cross an ocean with a click of a keyboard.)

5. THEY COME FROM AWAY.

I met Theater Makers from Korea, Paris, Germany, Ireland, and all over the continent.  I always forget how close these other countries and cultures are when I’m in the heart of London. The city feels like Grand Central Station but for theater, which makes for a richer and more diverse output of stories and points of view.  The pitches I heard had more variety than any other place I’ve been.

Oh, and there’s one more thing I learned . . . theater people . . . no matter where you go . . . are just plain terrific people.  And it makes sense, doesn’t it?  To work in the theater, you must be collaborative.  Your job (which you love or you wouldn’t do it) depends on your ability to talk to other people, work with other people, challenge other people, and take a big ol’ bow with other people.  So of course when you put theater people in a room good things happen.

And I’m so glad that all of these terrific London people came to the social.  And I hope many coffees are had.

We’ll be doing more of these socials in 2019.  Because I like them.  And because I learn from them.  And I hope you do too.

And let me know if you’ve got a lot of theater folks in your town that could use a reason to get together.  Maybe I’ll come to socialize with you!  Just email me here.

 

3 Things Broadway Can Learn From The Royal Wedding.

Admit it.

You watched some of that wedding, didn’t you?

Maybe you didn’t get your butt up at 5 AM to watch it live (although I’d bet money that a lot of you did), but you tuned in at some point to watch the pomp and circumstance of the latest royal nuptials, am I right?

It’s ok.  I did too.

We’re obsessed with royal weddings.  Even now, when we know that being a Princess in the British monarchy isn’t anything close to what we heard about in fairy tales (and might be more of a curse than a blessing), we’re still infatuated with the concept of the crown, and how they say “I do.”

And whenever anything gets this much publicity (one might argue that a Royal Wedding is England’s greatest marketing initiative – they should be pushing for a wedding a year just to get the impressions), I get jealous and wonder what we can do to steal some of those eyeballs.

Here are three things Broadway can learn from The Royal Wedding:

1. People Still Love A Princess Story

It’s not just the act of a royal getting married that the public is obsessed with, but it’s the story of a person being plucked from “obscurity” and given fame, fortune, and the adoration of millions that has us leaning forward in our seats.  It’s the ol’ fashioned idea of a regular Joe (or in this case JoAnne) becoming an overnight sensation, which is incredibly captivating to an audience. Why?  Because we all fantasize about that same thing happening to us.

And an easy way to get a big audience is to tell the transformational story of a hero becoming something that we all want to be.  Remember that when you are writing a script.

2. We Love A Title, No Matter What It Means

The monarchy in the UK is pretty powerless.  We know that now.  We’ve all seen The Audience.  But that doesn’t stop us from worshipping a King or a Queen or yeah, a Prince or Princess/Duchess/Whatever fancy title someone has. Being dubbed a “something” gives that person a status that other people don’t have.  And that status means followers and support, regardless of the actual influence of the person with that status. I wonder if every year, Broadway should designate an Official Broadway Ambassador.  We pick a big star to represent us, and that person, as the Ambassador, travels to theaters around the country/world, meets with leaders of business, inspires kids, and does . . . well . . . prince/princess type duties.

They’d get a following . . . and even an “audience.”

Titles are cheap but can carry great influence.

3. Don’t skimp on the costumes

I sometimes think a Royal Wedding isn’t a wedding at all . . . it’s just a fashion show.  Those hats alone! Can you imagine how much in couture was sold over the last few weeks? Which made me think two things:

First, there is an expectation of a certain level of costume ‘blingness’ when an audience pays $150/ticket.  I learned this on Godspell when I was showing potential customers in the line at the TKTS booth pictures of my show (with my cast in a version of street clothes). “I’d rather see Priscilla Queen of the Desert instead,” said one theatergoer.  I knew she’d actually enjoy our show better, but I couldn’t sway her from all that spectacle.

Your costumes can’t just be grabbed off a rack . . . anyone gets that.  And we don’t go to see shows to see what anyone can get or wear.  We go to see something special, something that we can’t or don’t have.

Second, I couldn’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if more of our shows (even just our opening nights) were a bit of a “who’s wearing what” event.  Fashion is a massive business (people pay $30k to go to that Met Ball from a few weeks ago), and if the fashion world took a shine to us, we’d get a heck of a lot more press.

I know it’s going to be hard to get people to start dressing up for the theater again, but we could try.  What about suggested dress codes on websites saying “anything is welcome, but we’d suggest . . . ”  And what about those opening nights?  Surely something can be done to get folks to show up in something a little bit more shiny than what they wore to work that day?

 

So tell me the truth now . . . did you watch The Royal Family?  And more importantly . . . WHY did you watch?  And what did you take away from your desire to tune in that you can apply to your show?

 

GUEST BLOG: Why Saving Original Theater Journalism Matters to Broadway by Matt Britten

When I launched the theater industry newsletter Broadway Briefing about 3 years ago, I sent the first edition out to about 20 friends. I never could have imagined how quickly it would grow — or that I would never get any sleep again! The Briefing now reaches thousands of theater professionals in New York and around the world, including top influencers, award voters, and decision makers.

At Broadway Briefing, we celebrate the Broadway coverage from the theater sites, the New York news outlets, and sources all around the globe. However, after nearly three years of closely following theater news, the problem became clear: theater journalism is dying.

Critic and arts journalist/associate editor of The Stage Mark Shenton wrote a year ago of theater journalism, “As a supposedly niche interest … it is an area that is being subjected to death by a thousand cuts.” In the year since he wrote that, even more cuts have followed, affecting local, national, and global outlets and their theater journalists. You likely have heard about the recent spate of theater journalists leaving — or being forced out of — their posts.

The Briefing did not set out to start a theater news organization, but after a couple of years of reps, reporters, and readers sending us their tips, it seemed that we had one. So, as other organizations cut theater coverage, we moved quickly to launch Broadway News (www.broadway.news), a new home for quality original theater coverage.

Here are some of the principles that guide Broadway News, and why original theater journalism should matter to Broadway:

PUT THE NEWS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

“17 Craziest Patti LuPone Moments” listicles are fun. Millions of fans around the globe are dying to read them and share them. And that’s good for Broadway because it keeps us relevant even to those who aren’t in New York watching our shows.
At the same time, hard news is important too. When tax law changes are made that affect Broadway or legal battles related to new shows are being waged in court, it is important for those things to be reported. The outcomes of these stories affect what shows are produced on Broadway, who produces them, how much they cost, and more.

To many, such reports on the already narrow topic of theater could be considered boring. But to a particular audience, the Broadway industry and those interested in it, they are just the opposite, the most valuable information that is otherwise shrouded in secrecy and not reported on at all.

HIRE TRAINED JOURNALISTS

In order for theater news to be reported fairly and accurately, it is important for it to be reported by trained journalists.

This past fall, we hired Caitlin Huston as editor in chief of Broadway News. Caitlin joined Broadway News after covering startups and initial public offerings at MarketWatch, part of Dow Jones, and working as an editor at The Wall Street Journal. In addition to her business reporting at Dow Jones, Caitlin contributed to the WSJ’s Broadway coverage and helped to launch Broadway coverage at MarketWatch. She began her professional journalism career as a crime reporter.

We were looking for someone with a passion for Broadway, but also someone who would bring an outside eye to the industry, as well as superb reporting chops. Caitlin has proven an excellent leader for Broadway News.

PROTECT INSIGHTFUL CRITICISM

Theater criticism, in particular, has experienced a great number of cuts over the past year. So, it became important to us to provide a platform for critics’ voices to be heard.

We were thrilled to hire Charles Isherwood, a brand name in New York theater criticism. Previously of The New York Times, Charles has continued to critique Broadway in his unique and experienced voice.

It was also important to us to bring new voices to Broadway reviews, and so we were delighted to hire Elizabeth Bradley. Liz has a distinguished background as a theater professor and practitioner, having helmed both the NYU and Carnegie Mellon drama departments.
With Charles and Liz, the tradition of first-class theater criticism lives on with a new home at Broadway News.

ENCOURAGE DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES

One of our more recent efforts has been the launch of the “Views” section of Broadway News. This new section will be home to opinion columns from some of the most important voices in theater journalism, as well as a platform for new talent. The first two columnists are Jeremy Gerard and Janice Simpson.

Jeremy has been a critic, columnist and reporter since 1977, and has held prominent posts at The New York Times, Variety, The Dallas Morning News, New York Magazine, Bloomberg News and Deadline.

Janice directs the Arts & Culture Reporting program at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism, spent three decades at TIME magazine, and has also served as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

They are extremely well-sourced theater journalists and their columns will reflect that, weaving their personal perspectives with new insights gleaned from interactions with key players on Broadway.

INSPIRE INDUSTRY INNOVATION

Theater is perpetually considered an industry that is lagging behind the innovation and disruption of others. And while there is reason for hope — new and exciting theater-adjacent businesses are now popping up nearly every day — there will always be a need to hold ourselves and our industry accountable. Real journalism is the best tool to challenge ourselves to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, how can we do better?”

If you’d like to support our effort and help us in the fight to reverse the decline in theater coverage, you can become a Broadway News subscriber today.

This coming Broadway season is going to be as dynamic and fascinating as ever, and Broadway News will be there to go beyond the press releases, providing context and conversation about the questions and challenges that face our industry every day.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Matt Britten is a theatrical entrepreneur, writer, and producer. He created Broadway Briefing, a daily theatrical industry publication. Always seeking to innovate, Matt produced the groundbreaking first-ever app-enabled theatrical experience, BLANK! THE MUSICAL. Among other theatrical projects, he created ODYSSEY, an epic musical retelling of the classic myth. Matt previously served as Creative Director for the theatrical non-profit New York Musical Festival, where he conceived and oversaw the acclaimed “Musicals Live Here” campaign featuring Broadway talent in iconic roles. He also served on the Board of Directors for The Uprising, a New York City non-profit empowering underserved teens. Matt has worked for The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, and was educated at Syracuse University, Shakespeare’s Globe, and programs with screenwriting legend Aaron Sorkin and powerhouse producer Arielle Tepper, both fellow Syracuse University alums. Matt has lived and worked in Detroit, Los Angeles, and London, and currently resides in New York City.

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