What will happen to Broadway if Spider-Man is a hit?

When the work started back up at the Hilton Theater recently, it felt like that moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when, after years of silence, smoke started coming out of the chimneys.  “The Oompa-Loompas are back to work!  They’re making chocolate again!”

Well, unfortunately for the Producers of Spider-Man, they don’t have Oompa-Loompas to do their pre-production.  Their labor costs a lot more than a free room and all the chocolate you can eat.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding what’s going on in that theater.  Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen on opening night.

Me?  I’m more interested in what happens after opening night.

Spider-Man is the biggest show that Broadway has ever seen.  I’ve compared it to the movie version of Titanic and Avatar before, as it has the potential to create that kind of tsunami-like splash.

But what happens in the aftermath?

First, let me state how much I’m fantasizing about Spidey-success.  That same post I linked to above talks about the potential it has to bring new audiences to the theater, to bring more rock-star composers to the theater, and to re-energize our market by giving us one of the most unique events we’ve ever seen.

It could be a game-changer.

It could also drive up capitalizations and costs quicker than Clark Kent can change into Superman.

We’re an industry that swings for the fences.

And regardless of how out-of-whack some of our labor rules may be, or or royalty pools, or GM fees, and so on . . . when you get a hit, none of it is out of whack.

And that’s why the fees are so high.  The unions, vendors, and so on, keep the rates at high levels to make sure that they have what one Producer I know calls “Bonanza Insurance.”

I call it Phantom Insurance.

And those rates and fees will always stay high, as long as there is one show that defies the odds and mints money like the Oompa-Loompas mint . . . uh . . . mints.

So, if Spider-Man sets a new bar . . . will the unions and creatives and Producers have to set a new one as well?

Me? I’d rather have a whole slew of hits than just one super-sized hit.  So when you hear, “If Spider-Man can do it, ” even if it comes out of your own mouth, make sure whatever you’re discussing makes sense (and ‘cents’) for your show.

Because Broadway musical budgets 50 years ago were less than a million bucks.

Now the average is getting closer to 15 million.  That’s an increase of 1500%. And inflation has increased.

What will the average be in 2060?

5 Things I learned from King Tut.

I fell prey to the ton of marketing being done for King Tut in Times Square last week, and headed on down to 43rd Street to check out what treasures the exhibitors had in store for me.

Although it may not seem like it, exhibits like King Tut are forms of live entertainment, shrouded in education.  These are multi-million dollar productions with big capitalizations, operating costs, and marketing challenges.  In other words, they have to be produced.

So, as I explored the life of King Tut, I also tried to find some gold coins of wisdom that I could apply to what we do.

Here are 5 things I learned from King Tut:

1.  It’s not the size of your pyramid.  It’s how you use it.

The priceless treasures of the Tut exhibit are currently sitting in . . . a basement.  The producers of the exhibit found a non-traditional venue, and with some smart designers, turned it into a theater fit for a king.  If you can’t find the perfect space for your show, make it.

2.  You can’t touch the mummy.  But you can wear his t-shirt.

Man, are these guys good at merch.  They get your photo taken on the way in and show it to you on the way out (I almost bought mine . . . they photoshopped pyramids behind me, for Pharaoh’s sake!).  Just like the theme parks!  And you can’t get out of the building without walking through their super-sized shop of Tut toys and trinkets.  Merch is a science, not a hobby.  It can help pay for your play. (Remind me to tell you about the time a Company Manager friend of mine paid his load-out crew on a flop with cash from the merch till.  When the cash ran out, the crew ran out.  Oh, wait, I guess I just told you about it.  You don’t have to remind me anymore.)

3.  Got your ticket?  Good, now, it’s just a couple more bucks for this.

During the check-out process, I got pitched a $5 add-on movie called Mummies.  And it was in 3D!  Just like Avatar!  What’s another $5, I thought, since I already dropped $40, and for something that sounded so cool!  In reality, it wasn’t that cool, but what did I know until I got there.  And, at only $5, there wasn’t much remorse.  Once you’ve got a customer on the hook, getting them to pay for just a little bit more isn’t too difficult, if you ask.  Tacking on an extra isn’t tacky, especially when it makes the entire experience better.

4.  Egyptians can wear funny hats too.

This is a monumental exhibit.  It’s educational.  It’s important.  And it also knows not to take itself too seriously, evident by the King Tut street team that’s been flyering Times Square wearing King Tut headdresses.  You can’t help but smile when you see one, and that’s not a bad thought to have when considering an entertainment option.  On top of that, the Tut mask is so well branded that the flyer guy can make the impression on the passerby even without handing them a flyer.  This street team strategy reminded me of the Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher team that brilliantly wore those bun-wigs while they were on the street promoting Wishful Drinking.  The best street teams think every day is Halloween.

5.  King Tut was a teen, and no one cared.

I get a lot of young folks emailing me saying that they are too young to produce, that they could never get a show up at their age.  Well, King Tut was 9 when he was crowned and 19 when he died.  In that time, he changed the entire Egyptian God structure (which had been set by his father), restored diplomatic relations with neighboring peoples, and married his half-sister.  Ok, ok, so he was born into some money.  I’m not saying you have to produce a pyramid, but age hasn’t nothing to do with what you do, unless you let it.

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