Broadway’s 3rd Quarter results: The final furlong begins.

We’ve rounded the last turn on this Broadway season.  There are just thirteen weeks to go before we put another one in the books.

But will this one go in the record books?

It looks like the answer is yes . . . for two very different reasons.

At the end of the third quarter, our grosses are still up a fractional .5% over last year’s numbers.  If we can hold on to that itsy-bitsy growth, Broadway will have another record-grossing year.

To be honest, I thought we’d have dropped into negative territory this quarter, but we managed to hold steady. How?  Remember those 2 million dollar Wicked weeks?  Our biggest hits, including Wicked and J-Boys, mastered variable and premium pricing this year, and made up for the big grossing shows (Steady Rain, Hamlet, etc.) that came and went.

On the other end of the spectrum, our attendance is still down an unfortunate 4% from last year, which means my pre-season prediction of a drop in seasonal attendance for the third year in a row looks to be as sure as a Tony nom for Liev Schreiber.  Why will this drop go in the record books?  It’s the third drop in a row, and that hasn’t happened in 25 years.  (To cut us some slack, this last year we were in the midst of a slight economic crisis, in case any of you haven’t heard.)

But we’ve still got one quarter left, and a couple of big musicals in big houses yet to open, not to mention all those plays.  Maybe we’ll see a turnaround?

As we head into the final furlong, I’ll be cheering hard for a come-from-behind win at the wire.  But I’m not rooting for the grosses to go up . . . it’s that attendance figure I want to even out.

Unfortunately, that one’s a real long shot.

Three reasons why Glee is great.

There is no question that Glee is great for Broadway.  Here are three reasons why I love it:

1.  IT PUTS BROADWAY PEEPS TO WORK

The transition from theater to television is a lot more difficult now than it was in the early days of both industries.  Look at how many great Broadway actors are out there that you haven’t seen headlining in movies and piloting pilots.

And then along comes a show like Glee, and the casting directors can’t get enough from our pool: Lea Michele, Matt Morrison, Jonathan Groff, John Lloyd Young, Debra Monk and more.

The longer it runs, the more our folks will get a chance to lend their talents and their pipes to that program.  And then they’ll hopefully come back to Broadway and bring some fans with them.

2.  IT PUTS SHOWTUNES NEXT TO POP TUNES

“Where Is Love,” “Tonight,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat,” are just a few of the showtunes featured on Glee, and these classics are smacked right up next to songs like “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” “Rehab,” and “Single Ladies.”

The line between pop and showtunes is being blurred.

Who knows, maybe we’ll go back to the days when major rock bands like, oh, I don’t know, The Beatles, sang showtunes when looking to make a big splash on television.

3.  IT PUTS SINGING INTO STORIES

So often I hear people say, “I just don’t get musicals.  People start singing.  What the?  People just don’t do that!”

For the most part, Glee chose the Jersey Boys model (or Altar Boyz model, for that matter) where the musical numbers are actual performances and not “sung scenes.”  Still, having a show like Glee helps audiences get used to the fact that music can be incorporated seamlessly into entertainment.
The movie musical has helped Broadway significantly over the past decade, with shows like Hairspray, Chicago, Phantom and Rent ALL adding years to their runs (and millions to their box offices) thanks to their movie counterparts.

Broadway now seems to be making its way into television, in a subtler way, but in a way nonetheless.

Let’s hope shows like Glee continue to merge the two mediums.

5 More things I learned about Las Vegas.

I’ve written about Vegas before, having spent several months working there as the Company Manager of Chicago at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, and having spent many hours there hunched over a poker table.

I like Vegas. Where else can you stare at a  beautiful nature-made mountainscape in one direction and a beautiful man-made pyramid with a shaft of light shooting out the top in the other.
Pyramids and pirate ships aside, it’s a tricky town, especially for Producers, with more live entertainment produced on and off the strip than anywhere else in the world.  Jersey Boys, Cirque, Hypnotists, Comedians, Strippers, Magicians, etc., you name it, and someone is producing it.
Whether or not they are making money, is another question entirely.
Every time I go out to that man-made-Mecca, I learn something new, and the trip I took this past week, was no exception (special thanks to the NATB and the Ticket Summit, who had me out to speak at their conferences, and therefore inspired the trip and this post – and put a few bucks in my pocket thanks to a Jack High flush against a set of 8s.).
Here are five more things I learned about Las Vegas:
1.  SIN IS IN.
When I first went to Vegas, The MGM Grand had a theme park, and New York New York was promoting its roller coaster.  “Bring the family” was the rallying cry.  There are still plenty of family friendly things to do in Vegas, but for the past several years, the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” marketing-mantra has had its effect on live entertainment as well. The old fashioned sexy/topless Vegas revue is back in style.  The in-room hotel glossy mag advertising the “what to dos” while it town, featuring ad after ad of Crazy Horse, Zumanity, Jubilee, Bite, Thunder From Down Under, etc., etc.
And of course, the Vegas-Broadway love child, PeepShow directed by Jerry Mitchell, with songs by Andrew Lippa, starring Shoshana Bean and headlined by Holly ‘Hefner’ Madison (and yes, you to get to see her two talents – I’ll let you decide what those are).
2.  VEGAS HAS AN OFF-BROADWAY TOO.
Down a ways from the strip is where Vegas began.  It’s old school Vegas with it’s 99 cent shrimp cocktails, penny slots, and more. It’s cheaper. It’s off the beaten path.  It’s intimate and more personal.  Some would call it more “real”.
Sound like a familiar description? It’s exactly what Off-Broadway is.  And just like we try to tell tourists here about seeing an Off-Broadway show, downtown Vegas (or The Freemont Street Experience) tries to let visitors know that they haven’t really experienced Vegas unless they’ve come downtown at least once during their stay.
And I agree with them.  You haven’t lived until you’ve had a 99 cent shrimp cocktail and a deep fried twinkie.
3.  DON’T LIKE YOUR SHOW AFTER IT OPENS?  CHANGE IT.
Vegas doesn’t settle.  Revising a show after it opens is common place.  Le Reve (which I heard was revised twice), Chris Angel’s Believe, and many others have undergone changes well after the shows were “frozen”.  If audiences aren’t digging it, they bring back the team (or bring on a new team), and tweak it until it gets a better response.
If only we could do that here (The Scarlet Pimpernel tried it, but it didn’t take).
It makes sense that Vegas is willing to make these investments. For one, the shows are capitalized at much higher rates, so tossing in a few more bucks doesn’t mean as much.  And two, the shows are designed to run a lot longer and need to, so getting them just right is much more important.
4.  IT’S ALL ABOUT ‘OUTDOOR’.
There isn’t much that isn’t advertised on in Vegas.  Everything is a billboard:  slot machines, walls, giant mobile signs trucked up and down the strip, and even the urinals.  I would have snapped a photo of that urinal mini-board, but frankly, I was a little worried that if I whipped out a camera, the biker standing next to me would stop what he was doing and show me why I should always wear a helmet.
5.  IF YOU’RE NOT INTERACTIVE, YOU’RE DEAD.
Vegas is non-stop excitement. There’s an energy that sweeps you up as soon as you step off the plane and keeps you going, no matter what the time and now matter how much money you lose.  And let’s face it, most people go there to gamble, get drunk, and do the things that you’re not supposed to do at home. It’s an adult theme park.  People who go to Vegas want to play.
And playing doesn’t mean sitting back and watching a “play”.  Every single thing I’ve ever seen in Vegas has some sort of interactive element. Headliners, illusionists, comedians, Cirque and their clowns, and so on.  The interactive element has to be there.  Let your audience sit back and relax, and they’ll start getting anxious about getting back to those tables, wishing they could be losing money rather than sitting through a show.  You better not even think about a fourth wall.
That’s one of the reasons that traditional musicals don’t work in Sin City, and the only ones that even have a shot are the mega-brands like Phantom, J. Boys, Mamma Mia, and Lion King (And I’d double-down that none of these shows are as successful in Vegas as they have been in other locations).
You know what else I learned about Vegas?  Every time I go, which is usually about 4 times a year since I worked there, it somehow makes you want to learn more.

Have we seen the last of the looooong running musical?

I’ve written about long running shows by decade before, but I felt the subject deserved another look as a whole.  So, as of this Sunday, take a look at Top 10 Longest Running Shows on Broadway:

Show # of Perfs Year Opened
1 The Phantom of the Opera* 8907 1988
2 Cats 7485 1982
3 Les Miserables 6680 1987
4 A Chorus Line 6137 1975
5 Oh! Calcutta! 5959 1974
6 Beauty and the Beast 5461 1994
7 Chicago* 5236 1996
8 Rent 5123 1996
9 The Lion King* 4821 1997
10 Miss Saigon 4092 1991
*still running
5 of these marathoners or 50% of the longest running musicals on Broadway are from the decade of glorious growth, the 90s.
30% are from the British Invasion of the 80s.  And the remaining 20% are from the 70s.
Let’s take a little trip further down the long runner list, shall we?  Here is a list of the 11th – 30th Longest Running Broadway Shows:

 

Show # of Perfs Year Opened
11 42nd Street 3486 1980
12 Grease 3388 1972
13 Fiddler on the Roof 3242 1964
14 Life with Father 3224 1939
15 Mamma Mia!* 3184 2001
16 Tobacco Road 3182 1933
17 Hello, Dolly! 2844 1964
18 My Fair Lady 2717 1956
19 Hairspray 2642 2002
20 The Producers 2502 2001
21 Avenue Q 2446 2003
22 Cabaret 2377 1998
23 Annie 2377 1977
24 Wicked* 2342 2003
25 Man of La Mancha 2328 1965
26 Abie’s Irish Rose 2327 1922
27 Oklahoma! 2212 1943
28 Smokey Joe’s Café 2036 1995
29 Pippin 1944 1972
30 South Pacific 1925 1949

There are only 2 musicals on this list that are still running and have a shot at cracking into the top 10:  Mamma Mia needs another 2 years, and Wicked needs 4.  I expect both to make it, which will give the 2000s (or the “aughts”) 2 spots in the top 10.

If you keep going down the list, there are 3 more musicals that are still running that could conceivably have a shot:  Jersey Boys (#54), Mary Poppins (#89), and Billy Elliot (too far down to count).  Jersey Boys has probably got a chance, thanks to its low overhead, but I doubt the other two will go the distance.
If those falsetto-singing boys from Jersey make the cut (and they still need another (gulp) 7 years), then that will give the aughts a 30% representation in the top 10 longest running shows.  Not so bad.
But if they don’t, and if the Mamma Mia movie madness wears off and that show doesn’t make the cut, we could be looking at only one show from this decade to be in the Top 10.
And is it just me, or does it seem like there isn’t anything on the horizon that has twenty year staying power?
Then again, the day before Rent opened on Broadway, I bet no one thought it would run for 5123 performances.

The first cease fire in the secondary ticket war.

It finally happened.

We’ve discussed the secondary market a few times on this blog, wondering e-loud if there was a way for the major players in each market to work together.

Earlier this week, two of the biggest of the big, shook hands on a peace treaty, in a first attempt to figure it out.

Jersey Boys, one of the members of the million dollar club on Broadway (and probably the member with the lowest weekly nut), officially announced that StubHub was their “official secondary market ticket provider.”

What does this mean for both parties?  Details on the deal itself were a bit vague in this Variety article that broke the story.  But, since StubHub is more of an Ebay experience than a broker experience, the financial arrangement doesn’t seem to involve what I think will be the basis for future deals between brokers and shows:  a portion of the above-face-value revenue in exchange for an allocation of tickets for certain performances (thus preventing the brokers from having to speculate).

Still, the deal is a symbolic one.  First New York state made its peace with scalpers, and now a show.

It kind of feels like that time when your Uncle Ernie . . . you know, the one no one talked about because no one was really sure what he did for a living . . . was finally invited over for Christmas dinner.

And it was good.

Because Uncle Ernie brought lots and lots of full-price-plus customers as presents.

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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