A sad day for Shrek.

Yesterday, Shrek confirmed what had been circulating the street all week: the ogre will be leaving Broadway and heading back to the swamp on January 3, 2010.

How could one of the most powerful entertainment brands of the last twenty years not survive on the Great White Way?  Too expensive?  Maybe.  Too much Hollywood influence?  Who knows.

I believe the closing of Shrek represents the end of an era; an era which attempted to capitalize on kids first, and put adults second.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen the premature closings of shows like Shrek, Little Mermaid, and even my own, 13.

All seemingly fantastic sells . . . except for the fact that they happened to be plopped right in the midst of one of the most difficult economic climates in our history.  And no demographic was hurt more than families of four from the suburbs.

When family folk were trying to decide on a show to see, here’s what happened:

– Shows that just the kids might want to see went out the window.

– Shows that appealed to both kids and adults went bye-bye as well (Grease, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, etc.).

What’s left on Broadway now is more adult fare . . .because the parents that are still going to the theater are leaving their kids at home (another reason why plays are doing so well).

Why do you think Disney doesn’t have anything in the immediate pipeline?

I don’t think you’ll see another animated feature making its way here anytime soon, do you?

Top Five Biggest Broadway Grossers of ’08. Are we like the movies?

As promised, here’s the follow up to yesterday’s post re: the top 10 grossing domestic films of 2008.

Since the film industry produces so much more product than we do, I thought it best to compare the top 10 grossing films domestically with the top 5 grossing shows (interesting to note that there isn’t an off-Broadway in film – pretty much everything gets lumped together – that’s a subject for another post).

Before I name the Top 5 Grossers . . . can you guess what they are?

Go on.  Give a shot.

When you’ve got them in your head, scroll down.

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Almost there . . .

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Here we go . . .

1.  Wicked                                    $75,641,794
2.  The Lion King                         $61,014,194
3.  Jersey Boys                            $58,871,925
4.  The Little Mermaid                  $49,184,168
5.  Mamma Mia                            $47,580,493

Well?  Think we have the same trends as the film industry?

I’m not so sure if the trends are as strong, but there is certainly something there.  3 out of 5 are the same big budget “fantasies” that the film audiences love.  And the other two are jukebox musicals.

And all based on pre-exisiting material – either a book, a movie, or a songbook.

Curious about the 2nd set of 5?  Here’s where we start to mix it up a bit:

6.  Mary Poppins                           $42,743,618
7.  The Phantom Of The Opera    $39,044,221
8.  South Pacific                            $35,817,950* (partial year)
9.  In The Heights                          $34,001,301* (partial year)
10.  Spamalot                                $32,386,699

Or do we?  Once again . . . all are based on pre-existing material, except for one.

Now which shows do you think will make the Top 5 next year?

Special thanks to Beverley D. Mac Keen and New World Stages for the research and for allowing me to borrow their cool spreadsheets.

The Producer’s Perspective “Best of 2008” Awards: Who Is The Producer of the Year

“Best Of” lists at this time of year are like Liza during Act II of Liza At The Palace:  all over the place but definitely worth checking out.

As I poured through this year’s collection of the best/worst lists from every paper, mag and e-zine, I realized that there was a group of folks left out of the annual accolades . . . Producers!

Well, no longer, my TPP readers!

Introducing the 1st Annual Producer’s Perspective “Best Of” Awards, including The Producer Of The Year Award.

Here’s how it works:  there are no set categories except for the big one (next year, I’ll let you propose categories).

Now, without further adieu, here are the winners!

BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN . . . DISNEY

Maybe it’s unfair to put a company like Disney, which has more leverage and brand-awareness than many small countries, up against all the rest of us trying to launch new product.  But you have to give the mouse credit for its menage-a-trois-like DisneyOnBroadway campaign, which has made their three shows as much of an attraction as The Magic Kingdom in Orlando.  In ’08, they also managed to turn the critically-ravaged Little Mermaid into a oft’ member of the million-dollar club.

BEST VIRAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN . . . TIE:  TITLE OF SHOW and XANADU

TOS kept their ball in the air for many a month before they arrived on Broadway with their Title of Show Show (which is continuing on even now).  And the birth of Cubby Bernstein for Xanadu was a terrific Hail Mary toss at the Tony.  Both were great examples of viral campaigns:  funny, celebrity-filled, cheap to create . . . and difficult to convert, as Xanadu lost the Tony and TOS closed prematurely.  A for effort.

BEST PENETRATION INTO POP CULTURE . . . LEGALLY BLONDE

In ’08, Blonde parlayed their ’07 MTV appearance into a reality show, cleansing our reality-show casting palettes after the disappointing You’re The One That I Want.  While Legally Blonde and Bailey Hanks were expelled from the boards a bit early, the tour is doing pretty well and I’d bet that the millions of eyeballs the reality show got helped build a brand-foundation in middle America.  And hey, no matter what you think about reality show casting, when young people are telling millions that their lifelong dream is to be on Broadway, it’s good for all of us.

BEST NEW ECONOMIC MODEL . . . WHITE CHRISTMAS

The limited run play has been a successful model for years.  But the limited run musical?  It’s a relatively new one, and with grosses of 1.4 and 1.5 million over the past couple weeks, White Xmas could have finally cracked the “nut”.

BEST STAR CASTING COUP . . . WHOOPI GOLDBERG IN XANADU

This was a competitive category with celebs like a wand-waving Daniel Radcliffe and Katie Cruise debuting on The Great White Way.  But come on, how many people ever thought Whoopi Goldberg would replace in a musical that was struggling to stay afloat?  The Producers of one of the best reviewed shows up for a Tony in ’08 did everything they could to keep their show open, and their work in getting Whoopi on board not only kept the show going, but it got the grosses up.

BEST AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT AWARD . . . 13

Have to give it to my own show on this one, thanks to the ultra-active 7,000+ members of 13fans.com we captured in such a short run.  That’s a lot of youngsters falling in love with a musical and wanting to chat about it.  And there’s no doubt they’ll be excited to see another one.  When I was a kid, my 5th grade class went to see Julius Caesar at a local Shakespeare company.  I fell asleep.  I’m surprised I ever wanted to see another piece of theater after that.  You want to develop audiences for the 22nd century?  Give ’em Mamma Mia before you give them Macbeth.  There’s always time for the medicine after the spoonful of sugar has gone down (damn that Disney leverage).

BEST USE OF NON-PROFIT MONEY . . . SOUTH PACIFIC

Non-profits should deliver what can’t be done commercially.  They should be homes for the artists whose vision and spirit can’t fit in the small economic box of Broadway.  There was no greater example of that in ’08 than the Atlantic Ocean-sized production of South Pacific.

BEST WE’RE STILL KICKING AWARD . . . 39 STEPS

39 Steps is tenaciously stepping into their 3rd Broadway house.  It ain’t easy or inexpensive to pick up a Broadway show and move it down the block, so they get kudos for grinding it out.

BEST USE OF AN AMERICAN IDOL . . . NO WINNER

Enough said.

And now the big one . . .

THE PRODUCER OF THE YEAR IS . .  . . .

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s entry!

In the meantime, I feel guilty that I didn’t collect your nominations this year, so give me your comments on what you think is the “BEST OF 2008”.  It can be anything:  Best Website, Best Logo for a Musical, Best BS Excuse By An Actor For Leaving A David Mamet Revival . . . you know, anything.

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