When are the worst times of the year for Broadway shows?

If you asked anyone when the worst weeks of the year are for Broadway, I’d bet you the brand new pre-release of The Book of Mormon CD that I got yesterday the answer you’d hear would be September and January.

But is that true?

I’ve never been a fan of anecdotal evidence, so with some help from one of my assistants, Jason Najjoum, I looked at the weekly grosses of Broadway shows for the last ten years, and found the 10 weeks with the lowest average weekly grosses.

Here’s the list, starting with the weeks with the worst averages:

1.  Week #5 – First week of February
2.  Week #18 – Last week of April
3.  Week #10 – First week of March
4.  Week #9 – Last week of February
5.  Week #44 – Last week of October
6.  Week #19 – First week of May
7.  Week #6 – Second week of February
8.  Week  #46 – Second week of November
9.  Week #17 – Third week of April
10. Week #4 – Last week of January

Funny, isn’t it?  September doesn’t appear in the Top 10.  And there are two consecutive three week runs in this list:

– Last week of January, First week of February and Second week of February.

and . . . the surprise that I was looking for . .

– Third week of April, Last week of April and First week of May.

So, looking at the average weekly grosses only, we just went through one of the worst times of the year.

Now, it may be no one’s fault but our own.  While I do believe that late April/May is not the best time for theatergoing, remember we are looking at average weekly grosses.  So if we’re putting more product on the street during this periods (and we know we are in late April/May because the Tony eligibility cutoff is usually at end of April), we’re driving our own average grosses down.

It’s easy to look at the best weeks of the year.  It’s hard to look at the worst.  But this is where we can learn the most.  By looking at the above, we know when we have to market more aggressively.  We know when we should avoid opening.

And we know that what we think we know is not always what’s the truth.

It’s not the nose that knows.  It’s the numbers that know.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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You make the call: would you take the group and change your show?

The fight between Art and Commerce is like the fight between Cats and Dogs, Republicans and Democrats, Lindsay Lohan and the law.

As a Producer you may be faced with tough decisions all the time.  You’ll have artists who want to add more scenery to a scene that you know won’t result in more ticket sales . . . but you’ll want to do it, because it will make the show’s statement stronger.  You’ll have marketers that want your star to appear on Howard Stern . . . even though your star hates Howard like Lindsay Lohan hates paying for expensive jewelry.  And you’ll want your star to do it because maybe Howard reaches an audience that is right for your show.

Or . . . you’ll be faced with the real-life decision that came across our desk here at DTE last week.

Here’s what happened.  And pay close attention, because just like my favorite part of watching football when I was a kid, I’m going to give you the chance to “Make the call!”

I have a division at my office that sells group tickets to Broadway shows.  A few weeks ago we got an inquiry from a group of 500 people that was looking for a show.  Yep, 500!  That’s 1/3 of a big Broadway house, which means quite an impact on a weekly gross.  We suggested a few shows to the group leader that we thought were appropriate for this group, and the leader went off to scout them.

The group came back and said there was one show that they specifically interested in.  “Great,” we said and started to place they order.

There was just one problem.

The group explained that there were a few moments in the show that they thought were objectionable, and unfortunately, because of the mission statement of the organization, they would not be able to book their group (of 500!) if those moments were in the show.

Insert dramatic chords here.

The “moments” weren’t specifically plot-related, nor would they involve a great deal of work to alter them.

But would the show make the alterations to satisfy this group?

Insert more dramatic chords here.

Obviously there are a lot factors that would be involved in this decision, like when the group is looking to come (what time of year and what performance during the week), how well the show is doing, how much the group is paying, etc.

But if you’re a commercial theater producer, the question is whether you would be willing to ask your creative team to make the changes to their work to accomodate this bonus to the bottom line?

And that’s the question I’m asking you!

You make the call.  Would you change the show for the group?

Comment below!  (Email subscribers, click here to add your comment).

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Broadway audience demographics for 2009-10 released!

It’s that time to year!  Time to looking into the Broadway stocking and see what Santa stuffed it with.

Every year, The Broadway League studies the demographics of the Broadway theatergoer.  And every year, we take a look at the Executive Summary to determine if things are changing from year to year, and to see what changes we should implement in our businesses in order to encourage even more theatergoing from this group in the future.

Here’s what the study said about the Broadway audience this year:

  • In the 2009-2010 season, approximately 63% of all Broadway tickets were purchased by tourists.
  • 63% of the audiences were female. This reflects the trend of the past few decades.
  • The average age of the Broadway theatregoer was 47.9 years, older than in the past few seasons.
  • Three quarters of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.  Although still mostly homogeneous, audiences have become slightly more diverse in the past decade and there was a higher percentage of Asian theatregoers this season.
  • Broadway theatregoers were a very well-educated group. Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 77% had completed college and 39% had earned a graduate degree.
  • Broadway theatregoers were also quite affluent compared to the general population, reporting and average annual household income of $200,700.
  • The average Broadway theatregoer reported attending 4.5 shows in the previous 12 months.  The group of devoted fans who attended 15 or more performances comprimsed only 6% of the audience, but accounted for 31% of all tickets (3.7 million admissions).
  • Playgoers tended to be more frequent theatregoers than musical attendees.  The typical straight play attendee saw seven shows in the past year; the musical attendee, five.
  • 34% of respondents said they bought their tickets online.
  • Also, 34% bought their tickets more than one month prior to the show.
  • The most popular sources of theatre information were Broadway.com, The New York Times, and word-of-mouth.
  • 69% of those making the purchasing decision were female.
  • At musicals, 46% of audience members said that personal recommendation was the most influential factor in deciding to attend the show while 23% cited critics’ reviews.  On the other hand, at plays, 31% cited personal recommendation and 32% named critics’ reviews.
  • In general, advertisements were not reported to have been influential in making the purchasing decision.
  • 72% of the Broadway audience said that some kind of incentive (discounts, freebies, add-ons), would encourage them to attend shows more often.

Fascinating stuff, right?  Check out previous year summaries by clicking here.  Compare the year to year!  It’s fun!

The full demographic report goes into much further detail than the above.  If you’d like to get a copy, you can order it here.  If you’re developing, writing or producing a show for Broadway, these reports are required reading.

Because this is your audience, whether you like it or not.

Broadway Grosses End of Q2 2010 Report: Fall is full.

As we enter the final week of November, we leave behind the Second Quarter of the Broadway season.  We’re at half-time and it’s time to check in on how this year is faring so far.

According to the results provided by The Broadway League, here are the totals from Q2:


Season to Date:  $505,746,394
Last Season to Date:  $500,376,907

% Difference:  1.1%


Season to Date:  5,911,685
Last Season to Date:  5,806,155

% Difference:  1.8%

The positive trend in both categories continues this year, but the increases have slipped from Q1, as I predicted.

There’s another figure that continues to be up.  Way up, in fact.  In Q2 there were 744 playing weeks versus 686 weeks the year prior. That’s an 8.5% increase.

That’s a heck of a lot more shows!

And that’s somewhat of a buzz kill to the increases in gross and attendance posted above. If we have 8.5% more shows, and only an increase of 1.1% in gross and 1.8% in attendance, that means the additional cash and those additional bodies are spread pretty thin over the very full Fall schedule.

With this much more product, shouldn’t there be that much more gross and that many more people?

Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked this Q2.

Expect the playing week increase to go down dramatically this next Quarter.  I count at least 15 shows posting their closing notice in the next few weeks, and that number could be as high as 20.

Unfortunately, the gross and attendance increase will go down as well.

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!

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.

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!