The Most Performed Play in High Schools – a follow up.

Yesterday, I listed the ETA’s most performed plays and musicals in high schools.

What surprised so many people about this list was that the play that topped even Shakespeare for the number one slot was Almost Maine, a play by the Maine-bred, very talented and oft seen on Law & Order, John Cariani.

The NY Times even wrote an article about the Maine phenomenon.

What is so special about this play being the most performed high school play in the US?

Well, for starters, you’ve probably never heard of it . . . because it flopped Off-Broadway in 2006 after running for only 67 performances.

As the NY Times article details, it lost its entire $800,000 investment.

What the NY Times article did not say was how much of that investment had been recouped since the play has become the most performed high school play in the US.

The article did say that Maine has done well for the author, which is fantastic news, because I’m a fan of John’s and hope that he writes another play soon.

But those author royalties would be buptkus if it weren’t for the original investors and if it weren’t for the original Producer (who, if this is a traditional agreement, won’t see any money until after the show recoups . . . if it recoups).

It’s great that the play has been able to support John over the years, and I hope it continues to do so.  But there has got to be a way that these plays that flop in NYC but have long lives elsewhere can provide some support to the Producers, while at the same time returning as much money to the investors as possible.

The goal of the subsidiary royalty revenue stream for authors is to keep them writing, so they aren’t forced to take a day job.

Shouldn’t there be something similar for the Producer?  Wouldn’t that allow the Producer to produce more often, just like it allows the author to write more often?  And shouldn’t they receive something for launching the project in the first place?

There doesn’t have to be something similar, obviously.  Because there isn’t one.

But that may also be why the crop of career Producers is so small.

Read Almost Maine here.  See what all the high schools are fussing about, and support a new playwright (and hopefully a Producer) in the process.

Read the other 9 most produced plays and musical in high schools by clicking here.

Superhero spotted on 42nd Street.

Well, it happened.

After years of speculation and millions and millions of dollars, it finally happened.

Spider-Man opened last night on Broadway.

You’re probably thinking I got that last sentence wrong.  That I should have said Spider-Man started previews last night.

But with the amount of ink from new and old media the show got last night and this morning, you might as well call it opened.

The chat boards lit up during the show last night (I bet all of the sites saw a surge in traffic), as did Twitter and the blogosphere.  The traditional media caught up this morning, with Spidey snagging the front page of the NY Post (right out of one of those scenes from a super hero movie where the papers hit the streets with a headline that screams, “Spider-Man saves the day!”) as well articles in the NY Times, The Journal, and many, many others.

And while the big publications aren’t reviewing the show, because they “can’t”, they are letting audience members do it for them, with quotes like “parts of it were really exciting” and “the story-telling is really unclear.”

Fair?  Unfair?

As a Producer, I might be frustrated with any negative coverage judging a first preview before my cake was fully cooked.  But when you build the biggest baked good in the world, you gotta expect it.

And hey – you can always take solace in the fact that what these publications are doing, without knowing it, is putting another nail in their own reviewers’ coffins.  By putting so much attention on the show up front, many audience members will have made up their minds by the time the reviews come out.  (When My First Time had a feature article in the NY Times, I sold soooo many more tickets than I sold when the review came out – and a bunch of people called me and congratulated me on the “review”.)

But I will say this to the press, and to all the chatters out there that have been sharpening their claws for the past several weeks . . . write what you will.  But remember, what they are doing down there is unprecedented.  They are building the musical version of the Great Wall of China.  (Which, by the way, I’m sure had a bunch of cost overruns and was also way behind schedule).

More important that precedent, is that they are employing an awful lot of people.

We should all be pulling for their success.  Explorers of uncharted territory may not always find what they are looking for (remember what Columbus was looking for), and many die in the process, but they always stumble upon something which provides new opportunities for all the rest of us.

Stay the course, Spidey.  Some of us are rooting for ya.

Now the big question is . . . will they be publishing their grosses???

Try to remember a more Fantastick investment.

Most articles about investing in the theater are all about how bonkers one has to be to put money in a Broadway or Off-Broadway show. Well, imagine my surprizzle when I read this article in the NY Times about the fantastic returns investors in the original Fantasticks have received over the last fifty radish-filled years.

The Times article details how the return of The Fantasticks has beat the S&P 500 over the last half-a-century, and helped one investor “put our three children through college.”

Some of my other favorite points in the article:

  • Smaller shows may make less in dollars than bigger shows, but the percentage return can be greater and the risk is lower.
  • The Fantasticks, one of the most successful shows of all time, had trouble finding investors, and struggled to get off the ground.  Its Producer almost closed the show on several occasions.
  • The original investors did it for love, not expecting great returns, just hoping “to earn our $330 back and get free tickets to a couple of performances.”

As I often tell my investors, goldmines like The Fantasticks are hard to find, but they are out there.  There is another Fantasticks, another Wicked, another August: Osage County being written right now (hopefully by one of you!).  If you learn the ins and outs of the numbers, only invest in what you love, and stay in the game for the long term, you’ll find one sooner or later.  (That’s the same advice famed mutual fund manager, Peter Lynch, would give you for picking stocks, by the way.)

Is investing in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows risky?  Yes.  I’m sure those original fantastic investors did what most producers encourage all their investors to do:  write a check that you don’t expect to see again.  But as I like to say, investing in shows is the riskiest investment you’ll love to make.

Congratulations on the anniversary, Fantasticks.  And thanks for being part of the data that demonstrates why entertainment should be considered its own asset class in everyone’s portfolio.

To read the NY Times article, click here.

Honda, The BBC . . . and Broadway?

I love it when Broadway gets mentioned in the same sentence as Big Business.

So imagine how I felt when I heard that one of our own got nominated for an honor usually reserved for publicly-held giants like Apple and Nike and so on….

Last week, Situation Interactive, the agency that has literally written the code for most of Broadway’s internet marketing campaigns, was nominated for a Webby Award for “Best Use of Social Media” for their follower-magnet Next To Normal twitter campaign.

If you’ve never heard of the Webbies before, well, they are exactly what they sound like.  The NY Times has called them “the internet’s highest honor.”  And now we’ve got a Broadway show up for one.

A wise press rep once told me that you get a gold star if you can get your show a story that doesn’t appear on the theater pages.  If that’s true, then Situation deserves a gold galaxy for getting Broadway off the theater pages and onto the business pages.

Now sure, it’s always nice be nominated, Sally Field, but it’s much better to win, right?

I think it’d be awesome if Broadway crushed its competition in this category.  And the good news is that the winner of the award is chosen American Idol-style . . . by fan vote.

So let’s show Honda and Yearbook.com, that Broadway ain’t stuck in the dark ages no more!  We can tweet with the best of them.

Vote here (click on the “Best Use of Social Media” category).

Now, after N2N wins this . . . it’s time for them to share their recent good fortune with some of the other shows, don’t you think?  First it recoups.  Then it wins a Pulitzer.  And now an advertising award?  What’s next?  A $1,000,000 grant for spectacular use of Ricolas?

Congrats, guys.  Your tide just raised all the boats.

The Top 10 Broadway and Theater iPhone Apps

I thought this was one of my best ideas for a blog in awhile.

But when I started to do some research, I was quickly reminded how Broadway is about 10 years behind every other industry, especially in terms of technology.

I could barely find 10 Broadway or Theater related iPhone apps . . . period!

Sure, there’s the We Will Rock You game, which I’ve written about before, as well the app for BroadwayWorld (BWW is always out front in terms of tech), BroadwayInChicago (offering tickets and schedules for this huge Chicago presenting house), TheaterGlossary (exactly what it sounds like) and BroadwayTube (which has only 1 review with 1 star), and some techie apps (thank you ControlBooth.com).

But that’s pretty much it.

Kind of sad, don’t you think?  Especially since apps aren’t going anywhere soon (In fact, their importance may be only increasing as they get a shot at a bigger stage on the new Apple tablet, as discussed in this NY Times article).

So come on all you developers and thinkers out there, let’s brainstorm some Bway apps!  And I’m pointing my finger at myself as well, because I want one more than a 6-year-old girl wants a pony, but I haven’t quite cracked a concept either.

So let’s try and crack it together!  In fact, here’s a proposal:

Send your ideas for iPhone apps to iPhoneIdeas@davenporttheatrical.com.  If I see one I like and make it, we’ll split the profits.

You win, I win, and the biggest winner of all?  The business.

Because the goal here is not to make money.

The goal is simply to have enough content for a blog post titled, “The Top 10 Broadway and Theater iPhone Apps!”

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As of June 5, 2010, we are no longer accepting iphone application ideas.  Thanks for the terrific responses, and do look for our first iPhone application to launch in the summer of 2010!

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UPDATED JULY 22, 2010:  Our “At The Booth” iPhone App is now available!  Entertainment Weekly calls it “The best thing to happen to New York Theater since, well, the introduction of the TKTS Booth!”

Read the announcement post here!

Donwload the app here!

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