Try to remember a more Fantastick investment.

Most articles about investing in the theater are all about how bonkers one has to be to put money in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show. Well, imagine my surprizzle when I read this article in the NY Times about the fantastic returns investors in the original Fantasticks have received over the last fifty radish-filled years.

The Times article details how the return of The Fantasticks has beat the S&P 500 over the last half-a-century, and helped one investor “put our three children through college.”

Some of my other favorite points in the article:

  • Smaller shows may make less in dollars than bigger shows, but the percentage return can be greater and the risk is lower.
  • The Fantasticks, one of the most successful shows of all time, had trouble finding investors, and struggled to get off the ground.  Its Producer almost closed the show on several occasions.
  • The original investors did it for love, not expecting great returns, just hoping “to earn our $330 back and get free tickets to a couple of performances.”

As I often tell my investors, goldmines like The Fantasticks are hard to find, but they are out there.  There is another Fantasticks, another Wicked, another August: Osage County being written right now (hopefully by one of you!).  If you learn the ins and outs of the numbers, only invest in what you love, and stay in the game for the long term, you’ll find one sooner or later.  (That’s the same advice famed mutual fund manager, Peter Lynch, would give you for picking stocks, by the way.)

Is investing in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows risky?  Yes.  I’m sure those original fantastic investors did what most producers encourage all their investors to do:  write a check that you don’t expect to see again.  But as I like to say, investing in shows is the riskiest investment you’ll love to make.

Congratulations on the anniversary, Fantasticks.  And thanks for being part of the data that demonstrates why entertainment should be considered its own asset class in everyone’s portfolio.

To read the NY Times article, click here.

Are there fewer long running shows on Broadway now than there used to be?

There was an interesting chart in last week’s Variety that listed all of the “long running shows” in Broadway history year by year (a “long run” by Variety standards is anything over 1,000 performances, or a little under 2.5 years).

Have you ever wondered if we’ve been producing the same number of 1000 show-runners as in previous years?

I did.

So, I broke it down by decade (since we’re almost at the end of another one), and here’s what I found out:

1910 – 1919    1 Long Runner
1920 – 1929    1
1930 – 1939    4
1940 – 1949    10
1950 – 1959    8
1960 – 1969    17
1970 – 1979    22
1980 – 1989    11
1990 – 1999    16
2000 – 2009    12*

*The actual count in our current decade is 11, but I’m going to predict that Billy Elliot will get added to the list and make it a perfect dozen.

You can see that Golden Age for the long running shows was in the 60s and 70s. So what did we lose in the 80s and beyond that took a bite out of these totals?

Well, here’s a hint . . .

In the 60s, 6 of the 17 long runners were plays.
In the 70s, 5 of the 22 long runners were plays.
In the 80s, 2 of the 11 long runners were plays.
In the 90s, there were ZERO long running plays.
In the 00s, there were ZERO long running plays.

The long running play is dead, and it has been for 20 years.

That doesn’t mean that plays can’t be successful.  The past two decades have produced financial and artistic successes like Doubt, Proof, and August.  But these unfortunate statistics should be used to help manage expectations for Producers and Investors when planning a production of a play.

The bigger question is what caused this shortened lifespan?  Is it the increase of our expenses? A change in our audience’s appetite?

Or is it simply the fact that Neil Simon isn’t writing new plays as often as he used to.

In the last five decades, 3 of those 13 long running plays or a whopping 1/3 of all the long running plays were by the master of two act comedies himself (and Mr. Simon also wrote one of the long running musicals as well).

Where is the next Neil when we need him/her?

The long running show faces significant challenges in the years ahead, thanks to our continued inflation of expenses, as well as the audience ceiling we’re smacking our head against.

My prediction is that the next decade will produce the lowest amount of long running shows since the 50s.

In the meantime, next season will see the revival of two of Mr. Simon’s best.

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How To Get A Producer To Read Your Script. (Updated 2018).

As someone who gets a minimum of 10 script submissions a week, I can tell you first hand that I know how hard it is to get a Producer to read your script and give it even 1/10th of the time and energy that you gave when you wrote it.

So what can you do to get that Producer to take that first step to producing your show and actually sit down and read your script?

Here are five tips on how to get a Producer to read your script:

1.  THE ASSISTANT APPROACH

Surprise, surprise, most people who work in Producers’ offices love plays and musicals, and have similar tastes to their boss, or at least know what the boss likes or doesn’t like (no one in my office is bringing me absurdist operas about Dadaism and its effect on South African monkeys).

Odds are that these people don’t get a minimum of 10 scripts a week sent to them like the guy or gal with their name on the door.  So find a way to get your script to them (which will probably make them feel pretty special and they’ll be even more inclined to like it).  If they do read it, and if they do like it, they’ll have 40+ hours a week to push it to the Producer.  If the Producer has already hired that person, then they already trust them, so odds are high that he or she will read it.  I know I’d read anything that my staff asked me to.

2.  THE TREATMENT APPROACH

Time is moolah, so sitting down (or standing up) and reading a script is a major investment for someone with a busy schedule.  I once did NOT read a play simply because it was 187 pages.  It could have been the next August: Osage County, but the thought of flipping 187 pages when I looked at my schedule made me throw up in my mouth (BTW, I did give it to an associate to read, and it was NOT August: Osage County).  The last thing you want is the taste of vomit in a Producer’s mouth before they’ve even glanced at your script.

Why not send a paragraph or one page treatment to whet the appetite of the Producer.  Or just send one of the best scenes (Producers tend to make up their minds quickly about plays and if your first few pages don’t grab the reader . . . don’t start by sending the whole play which starts with the first few pages!!!)

Along with the treatment, include a postage-paid postcard with a box to check to request the full play, or ask him or her to reply to an email if he or she wants to read the full play.  Not every show is for every Producer, and that doesn’t mean it’s a bad script.  God knows, the Dadaism opera could be the next Jersey Boys, but
I still wouldn’t want to produce it.  Why waste the Producer’s time and the Earth’s trees if the show isn’t a concept that appeals to the Producer?

Anyone can read a page.  Bait the Producer.  Get him or her to ask YOU for something.  Make them beg for it.  It’ll put a little psychological power back in your court.

3.  THE PRODUCTION APPROACH

Produce the show.  Anywhere.  Anyhow.  Produced shows have more value.  I don’t care if it was up at a community theater, a black box on the lower-east side, or in your college dorm room.  Get it up, and tell me that it was up, and show me some good reviews.  A few random quotes from a Philadelphia paper is what got me interested in the book writer of Altar Boyz‘s work.  Without those quotes, he and I never would have met, and the show wouldn’t be the same.

It doesn’t even matter what the production values were like or if you only sold 2 tickets.  Just give me the highlights . . . like a (here we go) baseball game on the 11 PM news.  Show me the game happened.  Show me that you won.  And show me a couple of great ‘plays’.  But I don’t need to know everything.

4.  THE PAY THE PRODUCER TO READ IT APPROACH.

Just kidding.  😉

5.  THE CONTEST APPROACH.

Can’t get a show up?  Win a contest.  There are zillions of playwriting contests out there.  Enter a few.  Win a lot.  Slap that seal of approval all over your cover page that you send with your one-pager.  Awards are cool and even if it’s from an organization I’ve never heard of, it still makes Producers sit up and take notice.  (By the way, contest deadlines are also great ways to motivate yourself to finish something if you’re having trouble setting a deadline for yourself)

There are many other ways to get Producers to read your script.  Just put yourself in their shoes.  Imagine that they don’t know you or what it took to write your baby.  What would make you read it?

Oh, and what do you do if you try all this, and do your follow up, and they still say they don’t want to read your script?

Move on.  #$*&( ’em.  You can thank them for passing on it when you win your Tony Award, because there was obviously someone better suited to produce it.

You just have to get that person to read it.

(Oh, and before you try to get a Producer to read your script, make sure that script is ready for reading!  You only get one chance to make that first impression, so make sure your script is tuned up and the best it can be before submitting.  I suggest you do readings, have friends read it, and I also strongly suggest getting your hands on my “How to Self Diagnose Your Script Execution Plan!” Click here to snag your copy now!  All this will prevent your script from just getting tossed on the stack.)

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Want to know what actual writers did to get their script read, and what producers look for in a show? Get inside knowledge when you listen in on my one-on-one podcasts with Joe DipietroBarry Weissler, and Stephen Flaherty.

Get more knowledge about the industry, monthly newsletters and webinars—like Get Your Show Off The Ground, plus a Tip of the Week email, when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO today.

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