At an industry event the other day, a Broadway Producer peer of mine and I were chatting about all the shows filling the theaters these days and how she was going to work them all into her schedule.
“You know what my four favorite words are?” she asked.
“No. What are your four favorite words?” I responded, setting her up for the spike.
“90 minutes. No intermission.”
There’s no question that there has been a trend over the last ten years for shorter shows. We haven’t done an infographic on it (yet), but I’d guarantee that the running time of both musicals and plays has slimmed down over the last decade.
And my Producer’s Perspective prediction is that they are going to get even shorter.
This week, a study was released by Common Sense Media with a bunch of stats on teens and tweens and their use of digital technology. The key finding of the report, as detailed in this CNN article was that “On any given day, teens in the US spend about nine hours using media (social media, movies, video games, music, etc.) for their enjoyment.”
That’s right. Nine hours. They spend more hours consuming information and entertainment through media than they do sleeping. And yeah, nine hours is also longer than they spend in school.
Just how do they do it?
Half of the teens in the study say “they ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ use social media or watch TV while doing their homework.”
They are consuming entertainment while they are doing other things, often important things. They are inundated by so much information in so many places, from their TV to their laptop to the phone in their pocket, that they can’t focus on one thing for any serious length of time. Add to that a little “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and no teen is going to want to wait too long to respond to a text or an Instagram pic that their friends may have just posted.
I know, I know, this is awful, right? It’s crazy how you and I are married to our phones, never mind the next generation, who were practically born with a phone in their hand.
It might be awful. But it ain’t changing.
And it is certainly going to affect how entertainment is created in the future.
Because this ADD generation is our future audience. And they can’t sit still for too long without consuming entertainment from various sources. So the idea that an audience is going to sit through a three-hour play in twenty years is just cuckoo. That’s why John Caird said in his podcast that he doubted The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby would even be produced in 2015.
But that’s not the primary reason the shows are going to get shorter.
It’s not just that this is the audience of the future. It’s that these teens . . . that can check social media 100 times a day . . . they are the writers of the future.
They are going to write what they know. They are going to write how they consume. They are going to create shows that satisfy their own desires.
And those desires are going to be shows that are shorter, and that have information coming at you from all angles . . . from the stage . . . and maybe from that phone in your pocket too.
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