UPDATED: Is THIS a sign of a market correction on Broadway coming?

There have been a lot of closings lately.  Broadway has felt a bit like Barnes & Noble after Amazon took off.

Ok, ok, there are always a lot of closing announcements post-Tonys, but something seems different this year.

And it has me worried.

The signs I’m seeing say that we’ve got a market correction a-comin’ in the next 12-18 months, which could pull our grosses (and attendance) back a bit from the super highs we’ve had.

What has me all a jittery?

Even before the Tonys, three plays announced they’d be bringing down the curtain prematurely:

King Lear
Gary

Hillary and Clinton

Right after The Tonys, another set announced:

The Prom
Be More Chill
King Kong

And then came a couple of surprises:

The Cher Show
Pretty Woman
Frankie and Johnny

Yeah, all those shows.  Enough to make a non-Broadway blogger think something was rotten.

But believe it or not . . . those nine shows are NOT what got me thinking that we’re due for a pullback.

It was three OTHER shows.

You probably can’t name them, but three more shows went gently into that good night recently.

Know which three I’m thinkin’ of?

Go on . . . I’ll wait.

I’ll give you a hint . . . collectively these three shows ran for . . . wait for it . . . 23 years???

And you can’t even get one of ’em, can you?

Ok, ok, no more reality-tv, judge-like-stalling . . . the shows are . . .

Avenue Q
Puffs
Newsical

The reason, of course, you couldn’t name them, is that they were Off-Broadway shows (ok, maybe you got Avenue Q), and Off-Broadway doesn’t get the attention that its big brother Broadway gets.

Why are these three shows’ final curtains significant?  Because they’ve been running for years . . . two of them for about a decade!

If a show closes that has ran for that long, and weathered many a storm (literally and figuratively), something has to be different in the market for them to choose to load out now.

And they all announced prior to the Broadway onslaught above, which is what first triggered me to think there may be some trouble in Broadway city.

Think about it this way . . .

If there is a flood, the people who live at the bottom of the hill (the less well “off” – or Off-Broadway, in this case), get wiped out first.  Then slowly but surely the water rises to those who live on top (the rich – or Broadway, in this case).

Those three Off-Broadway stalwarts goin’ down means trouble for anyone trying to launch or run a show now (which is why we’ve seen 9 shows close this summer).

But that’s not all . . .

I wrote a blog about corrections a few years ago and determined that Broadway “dips” occur every 3.67 years.

And those dips are always timed with three things:

  1. A Presidential Election.
  2. The Summer Olympics.
  3. A Leap Year.

(Read the original post about these three events and how they affect Broadway here.)

Guess what we’ve got in the next 12-18 months?

All three.

And guess how long it has been since the last correction?  You guessed it . . . about 4 years.

So buckle up all . . . it could get a little bumpy this Broadway season.

*****UPDATE AS OF 7/18/19

This subject is not something I like to be right about at all.   But since I posted this blog just a bit ago, two more Broadway musicals that have been around for years have announced their closing as well . . . Waitress which will close on January 5, 2020, and one of the most successful bio-musicals, Beautiful, which will shutter in the middle of October.

So yeah, to quote the title of another musical, something’s afoot.

We’re going to have a little vacuum of available theaters right now.  They’ll go fast, of course.  The theater owners won’t have a problem filling ’em, because Producers will by lining up to sign a lease PDQ.  But I hope they don’t go too quickly . . . because shows that rush their marketing just to get a theater first might be rushed out the door as well.  And that would only create a correction cycle that’s not good for anyone.


Curious how a show gets to Broadway, from the origination of the idea all the way to opening night?  Click here to check out my free Road to Broadway webinar.

The life and music of Neil Diamond on Broadway. And I’m honored to be producing.

It was last spring.  And I couldn’t have been busier.

But when this mentor/friend calls, I pick up the phone.  I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing.  I answer.

And this story is an example of why.

We were in the middle of the Tony campaign for Once On This Island. I was also at the tail end of the “lab” of Gettin’ the Band Back Together.  And we were still counting the age of my kid in weeks.

“Ken, I’d like you to talk to someone,” my mentor said.

I’ve learned that when this mentor-o-mine tells me I should chat with someone, I don’t ask “Who?”  I just ask, “When?”

He told me the match he was about to make for me was with none other than real life Jersey Boy and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame himself, Mr. Bob Gaudio.

“I’m going to give him your cell.”

I told him to have Bob call me anytime, and I didn’t even care what the reason was, even though we were an hour from an invited audience at our workshop, I had a conference call for Once On This Island scheduled for intermission, and I still didn’t know how to make a tight swaddle.  I mean, I was going to get a chance to talk to Bob “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” Gaudio!

Bob called me less than fifteen minutes later, which is how I knew we’d get along.  Because he wasted no time.  This was a guy who wanted to get moving and get moving fast.

And that’s when I learned that Bob, who had been Neil Diamond’s producer on four albums and his friend for decades, had been talking to his chart-bustin’ buddy about bringing a musical based on his life and songs to Broadway.  And they were looking for a partner.

So I said I had to think about it . . .

LOL.  JK.  JK.

I said yes.  And we were off and running.

And for the past year, little did you know that this project, about the man who wrote “America,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” and, yeah, “Sweet Caroline,” has been simmering on the stove.

But we needed a few more ingredients . . . like a writer.

So I called one of my favorite agents, who told me he wasn’t sure if he had anybody right for what we wanted to do.

Two days later, he called me and said he had just met with two time Academy Award-winner Anthony McCarten (Theory of Everything, The Darkest Hour), who was also the hottest screenwriter in Hollywood thanks to a little film he wrote called Bohemian Rhapsody (!) . . . and that Anthony just happened to mention that he had two photos on his mantle at his home in New Zealand when he was a kid:  The Pope . . . and yep, Neil Diamond.

So, he was in.

And then we needed a director.

My first Broadway Company Management gig was Thoroughly Modern Millie, helmed by Michael Mayer.  I remember watching him work then, thinking how versatile he was.  He was known for plays like Side Man and A View From The Bridge but also turned out a You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and here he was working on Millie (and helping to turn it into a Tony Award-winning Best Musical, by the way).  He went on to captain Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and so many more.  Everything he did was unique and theatrical, which is what Bob and I were looking for.

Would you know it, he was a Neil Diamond fan too.

And he was in.

Neil Diamond.  Bob Gaudio.  Anthony McCarten.  Michael Mayer.

And me.

Sorry, but pinching me isn’t going to work.  Someone is going to have to punch me in the face so I can make sure this ain’t no Broadway producin’ dream.

So yeah, it’s real, and today, we’re thrilled to announce that this new untitled bio-musical, about a man who has sold over 130 million records and counting, with 10 Top 10 hits, is on its way to the stage with the storytelling magic of Anthony McCarten and Michael Mayer.

It’s still early, so that’s all the news I have right now.  So you’ll have to watch this space for updates.  I don’t even have a timeline as of yet.

But, I can say this . . . this one will probably come together quicker than most musicals.

Because we’ve already got a score.  And it’s pretty effin’ great.

(You know, we were going to delay this announcement until after the 4th . . . but then it dawned on us . . . it just seemed too perfect that a musical based on the guy who wrote this should be announced this week.)

Sign up here to be the first to find out when this musical will debut.

Theaters Aren’t The Only Place To Do Theatre Anymore

My first experience with “site-specific” theatre was in 1995 with a little musical called J.P. Morgan Saves The Nation, written by a then-unknown composer/lyricist named Jonathan Larson (the NY Times called his score “peppy”).  It took place on the steps of Federal Hall downtown.

But this blog isn’t about site-specific theatre.

While I do think we’re on the verge of seeing plays and musicals pop up in office buildings, bars, shopping malls, and everyplace else in the next few years (thanks to the high cost of actual theaters, not to mention the lack of availability), site-specific theatre is so 1995.

In the past week, a few blips have appeared on my trend-spotting sonar that make me think we’re on the verge of another kind of revolution.  And this one, surprise surprise, has all to do with technology.

First, I can’t help but notice that Netflix has taken a more aggressive approach to capturing theatrical content as of late and not just the big branded Springsteen-like shows.  They shot a movie version of American Son.  They announced a movie version of that Cinderella story of a musical, The Prom.  And now, the Off-Broadway one-woman show, Douglas, will be the latest addition to their growing theatrical portfolio.

Second, (spoiler alert!) but I spend a lot of time on my upcoming podcast with Tony Nominated art-trepreneur Paul Gordon (airs this coming Monday) talking about his StreamingMusicals platform, which is off to a strong start (and got him a licensing deal for a new musical that has never played NYC).  I expect the next generation of theatre-makers is going to see this approach as a way to get their shows into the world at a fraction of the cost that typically comes with putting up an actual production.  (And speaking of streaming, we just got a report on my own production of Daddy Long Legs from my friends at  BroadwayHD, and it’s exceeding expectations in the number of views.  Check it out here.)

Third, I caught a glimpse of an ad on a subway platform the other day for a new digital platform called STAGE, which states, “From classic performances to edgy icons and undiscovered gems, musical theatre and performance is the cornerstone of STAGE.”  What’s interesting about this isn’t the network itself, but the ad . . . which ain’t cheap.  That says to me that STAGE ain’t effin’ around.  They see a big future in the platform and are betting on it.

And fourth (because you know, everything comes in threes, so when there are four things, you definitely have a fourk-ing trend), and perhaps most interesting of all . . . a new podcast musical was released this week, called Next Thing You Know by Joshua Salzman and Ryan Cunningham, starring Patti Murin, Colin Hanlon, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Lauren Blackman.  This on the heels of the high profile John Cameron Mitchell podcast musical “Anthem: Homunculus,” starring Patti Lupone to name a few (because she counts as a few).  Instead of readings and workshops, these creators have turned to tech to get attention for their new works.  (I wonder if critics will start reviewing them?)

All of this makes me think . . . are streaming and podcast recordings the new “concept recording,” made famous by Andrew Lloyd Webber with Jesus Christ Superstar? We all know how that worked out.  Answer?  Yes, yes they are.

And all of this points to one thing:  an uprising is underfoot.

The modern-day creators, who are part of the DIY generation, who grew up able to create and distribute their films and music without gatekeepers, are now finding ways to distribute theatre in the same way.

And we’re just at the beginning of it.

If you’re a theatre-maker, you should start to imagine other ways to get your shows the attention they deserve.

Because over the next ten years, the traditional walls of Broadway and Off-Broadway are going to come crumbling down as the next generation of creators continue to think outside of the . . . box theater.

– – – – –

Do check out Daddy Long Legs on BroadwayHD, and then guess how much it cost me to shoot something that high of a quality.  And then imagine how you can do it for your show . . .

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:

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