Broadway’s 1st Quarter Results: Summer Lovin’ happened so fast.

With the end of the summer comes the end of the first 13 weeks of the
Broadway season, which means it’s time for us to check in and see how
the grosses and attendance are stacking up so far.

And lo and behold, it looks like Santa got his seasons messed up, because we got a nice present this summer!

Grosses
are up a considerable 2.9% this quarter, as compared to the first 13
weeks of last season.  Attendance notched up 1.1% as well.

This is quite a difference from the first quarter last year, when we were down 3.2% in the gross column and 9.6% in the attendance column.

Why the difference?  Is the economy better?  Were there more tourists in town?

I think the answer is simpler than that.

In the first 13 weeks of this season, there were simply more shows.  Playing weeks were up 7.3% over last year.

I
think we’ll slip back a bit this Fall, as the season looks a little
light (I’m expecting a surprise closing announcement from at least one
show).  However, I am still holding firm with my projection that will see modest increases in both attendance and grosses for the year . . .

. . . Especially now that Spider-Man looks like it’s finally ready to cast his web.

See you in Q2!

10 Questions for a Broadway Pro. Volume 6: Flora Stamatiades, AEA Union Rep.

When you hear the words, Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), you probably think of the more than 40,000 actors (and stage managers) that are represented by that professional union.  Well, AEA has a lot of folks toiling tirelessly behind-the-scenes as well, trying to keep all those members working.  And in today’s theatrical economy, that is not an easy task.

But that’s exactly the job that Flora Stamatiades has.  And let me tell you from firsthand experience, she’s good at it. I’ve watched her single-handedly create hundreds and hundreds of union jobs where there were none before . . . while at the same time making the Producer happier about it!  Win-win is her middle name, and that’s usually what she gets.

So without further ado, here are 10 Qs for Flora about what it’s like working for one of the most important unions in our biz.

1. What is your title?

National Director, Organizing & Special Projects, Actors’ Equity Association

2. What show/shows are you currently working on?

I can’t really describe it in that way – but right now, I’m taking a look at several projects/industry sectors that we would like to see available for our members. There is also a constant flow of performers back and forth across the Atlantic keeping me busy.

3. In one sentence, describe your job.

I’ll give you two sentences for the two very disparate parts of my job:

1) Working with staff, members, elected leadership, and Producers to create more opportunities for work under Equity contracts.

2) Handling all issues of foreign performers appearing here and Equity members appearing abroad.

4. What skills are necessary for a person in your position?

You need to be a good listener and a creative thinker.  You should also have a broad-based understanding of the industry, and it doesn’t hurt to be both flexible and stubborn as hell.  I’m still working on all of these, especially the first.

5. What kind of training did you go through to get to your position?

Most of my training has been “on-the-job” – I’ve been fortunate enough to be guided by mentors who not only let me take on projects that might traditionally not be seen as my duties (especially before I was in my current position), but who also supported me in taking extra classes and training during my time here.

6. What was your first job in theater?

My first job after college was as the “Shop Assistant” at the (sadly) defunct Coconut Grove Playhouse.  Interestingly, our attempt to organize the tech staff there led not very indirectly to my being laid off after one season.

7. Why do you think theater is important?

It nurtures communication, emotion, thought, and sometimes, just plain fun! Also, it’s a shared experience that fosters teamwork both in its execution and its enjoyment.  It’s also an economic driver in its community – providing not only jobs, but ancillary income in restaurants, concessions, local businesses like the lumber yard or dry cleaner, and so on.

I would get into all that talk about how the arts improve people’s lives/children’s educations, etc., but I’ll leave that to someone who’s more expert in those areas.

8. What is your profession’s greatest challenge today?

Assumptions – on both sides.

9. If you could change just one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?

I think transparency and trust (which I really see as two sides of one coin) would make the labor/management relationship more productive.  I see efforts in this direction all the time from both sides, but too often it is easy to fall back into old patterns, especially as we are “taught” that we are enemies.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do?

It helps to have a broad-based understanding of the industry – not only from the perspective of the members you want to represent, but from the perspective of other industry unions, and even of employers.

Long before I decided in what area of the industry I wanted to work, I had tried most
everything – even acting, sadly for some audiences. But the skills gained
in each area of work added to my understanding of what it takes to put a
show/season together, and I hope leads to more productive conversations with
Producers and especially, our members (and future members).

And one final thing I recommend for anyone doing any type of
work – keep studying and training.  There is always more to learn!

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How much of an economic impact did Broadway make in 2008-2009?

For 15 years, The Broadway League has been measuring our industry’s impact on the NYC economy.

This year, the League changed up how these figures were calculated (much like how the League changed the publishing of our grosses and attendance a year ago).  Previously, the impact only counted money spent by those people who came to NYC “primarily to see a Broadway show, or extended a trip made for another purpose in order to go to a Broadway show.” The reason for the change was to account for the incredible increase in out-of-town visitors (especially the international crowd).  In the 1980-81 season, 69% of our audience was from outside of NYC.  In the 2008-09 season, this figure was up to 81%.

So, to get a more accurate reading, the League now asks visitors to rate Broadway’s importance in their decision to come to NYC on a scale of 1 to 10, and then counts the 8s and above as a “Broadway Tourist” and studies their spending habits.

This more quantitative approach produced a much higher, and I’d argue more accurate, account of what the economic effects of our industry really are to this city.

The results of this year’s report?

In the 2008-2009 season, Broadway’s economic impact was approx $9.8 b-b-b-billion dollars.

To quote the Executive Summary of the report:

“This amount was comprised of direct spending in three areas: spending by producers to mount and run shows ($2 billion); spending by theatre owners to maintain and renovate venues ($51 million); and ancillary purchases by non-NYC residents who said that Broadway was an important reason in their coming to New York City ($7.7 billion) (“Broadway Tourists”).

Those are some serious bucks, don’t you think?

What’s more interesting to me than Broadway Tourist spending is that Producers alone are directly responsible for initiating over 20% of this impact, spending over $2 billion on the production of shows.

Shouldn’t the city, the restaurant industry, the Taxi and Limo Commission, the hotel industry, and so forth, be tripping over themselves to help us with promotions, marketing, tax incentives, and so forth to inspire us to produce more?

To read the release from The League, and to learn how to get a hard copy of the report, click here.

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Only 14 days left to enter The Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool. Win an iPad!

Play today! Click here!

And don’t forget to RSVP for my Tony Party!

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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