I’ve been in New York for just shy of two decades now, and to say things have changed in the theater district is as obvious as saying Wicked is a big hit.
The transformation of Times Square into a Vegas Strip-like scene seems to have had an effect on what’s happening inside our theaters as well.
Here are 5 things I’ve noticed that indicate we’re getting Vegas-ized:
1. WHO IS THE HEADLINER?
We’re becoming increasingly dependent on the names in our shows, just like the casinos have depended on Wayne Newton and friends for years. In some cases (A Steady Rain, anyone?), Shakespeare has gotten a rewrite because now, “the star’s the thing.”
2. A TRIBUTE TO TRIBUTES.
When Love Never Dies canceled its Fall NYC opening, the show that took its place wasn’t a limited run play revival. Instead it was Rain, a Beatles tribute show that has been touring the nation. If it succeeds, expect more of this type of entertainment to be coming down the long and winding road.
3. BROKERS ARE NOT GOING BROKE.
In Vegas, the Brokers mean business. If you don’t have them on your side, you’re gonna get Bugsy Siegeled in no time. In NYC, they don’t wield that much power . . . yet. But as they continue to out-spend us on advertising, and continue to organize, we may find ourselves not wanting to sit with our backs to the door, if you know what I mean. My suggestion? We all have a sit-down.
4. PARDON ME, I DON’T SPEAK AMERICAN.
International audiences have been slowly increasing here in NYC, with the Broadway League reporting that 21% of our audience was from around the globe in 2008-2009. 21%! That means more than 1 in 5 people that see a show many not speak English as their first language! You’d have to be high on glue to not think that stat has an effect on what runs. If it increases, expect more and more non-verbal entertainment or spectacular events to take over our boards, like, oh, I don’t know, Spider-Man?
5. ADVANCE = DAY OF.
It used to be that our tourist audiences picked up a paper before they came into town and bought their tickets in advance. When my Mom bought my fam Phantom tickets we waited EIGHT months. And we sat in the 2nd row from the back. (Side note: when I went to see it a second time, I bought tickets from a broker because I wanted a great seat.) Our audiences are becoming more like Vegas audiences, and waiting until they get here to decide, causing most shows to have more availability, requiring more discounting, etc. So much of our marketing dollars now have to be spent on converting the customer when they get here, instead of before.
Will Broadway become the U.S’s second Strip? I doubt it. Great plays and great musicals will always have a place here, whereas I can’t imagine that The Pitmen Painters or Next to Normal will ever play The Mirage.
But we do have more in common with Vegas than ever before.
And you can place a big bet that this trend concerns me.