Should the critics have reviewed Spiderman?

I don’t know about what happened at your home, but as soon as that first review of Spider-Man hit the ‘web’ Monday night, my phone started ringing, my twitter started tweeting, and things I didn’t even know I owned started buzzing.

It was a social media cyclone.

And unfortunately for Spider-Man, that cyclone did some serious damage.

But the big question on everyone’s tweets was not how a $65 million dollar musical got such bad reviews, but should the critics have thrown their stones now, or should they have waited?

There has always been a gentleman’s agreement in the theater that reviewers don’t come until they are invited.  And that agreement has held up over the years, except for a few instances, mostly involving high profile out-of-town productions.

But not this time.

Why?

Well, come on Spider-Man, you’ve got super-human powers.  Surely, you had to see this coming.  You’ve been in previews longer than it takes an actual spider to spin a web.  Did you expect them to wait much longer?  Especially with rumors circulating that you were never going to open, and especially since the business you were doing didn’t seem to incentivize you to open any sooner.  When you’re doing 1.2+ million, who cares if you’re open or not, right?

Well, the critics do.

And Monday, they had enough.

And I can’t blame them.

I give them a lot of credit, actually.  Instead of just a free-for-all of reviews starting to come out randomly, they obviously got together and orchestrated this release together.  It was a calculated strike (which is the kind that does the most damage).  And the reviews came the day after the show was last supposed to open, which is a logical, rational, and defensible date to use.

So, good for them.

If I was a Producer, I might not like it, but I had to expect it (and evident by the typical post-opening radio spots and other media that ran this morning, these Producers did expect it).

All that said, you know what the real question I was asking after I read the reviews?

It wasn’t how a $65 million dollar musical could get such bad reviews.

It wasn’t whether or not they should have been reviewed it or not.

It was, “Will the reviews matter?”

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Look Ma! We made an iPhone app called “At The Booth!”

I feel like a proud papa sending out a birth announcement.  And while the gestation of this offspring didn’t take nine months, at times it sure felt like it!  (Then again, I’m about as patient as a kid on Christmas Eve.)

On January 26th, I wrote a blog about the Top 10 Broadway and Theater iPhone apps, only to find out that there weren’t even 10 to choose from.

So, my staff and I hit the whiteboard and came up with some ideas, and I also put a call out to all of you for your ideas, and said that if I found one that we liked, we’d make it . . . and share the profits.

Well, lo and behold, my staff . . . and several of you (you know who you are) . . . expressed interest in an iPhone app that tells you what’s available at the TKTS® booth, and at what price, etc.

So, we made it!

Introducing . . . The At The Boothapp, your guide to what’s half-price on Broadway today!  Download it now!

 

At The Boothincludes:

 

  • A list of all the shows available at the TKTS® booth and at what price (both in dollars and percent off – 50%, 40%, etc) updated throughout the day!
  • A “line indicator” that tells you how long the line is!
  • A full directory of all the shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway, whether they are at The Booth or not, including cast lists, photos, videos, and more!
  • A full directory of all of the theaters in NYC, including maps!
  • Links to reviews of all the shows!
  • Links to full price tickets and discount tickets, just in case your show isn’t at the booth!
  • And more!

The app has been on soft-launch for a couple of weeks, and we’ve gotten great feedback already.  We gave a few away to some folks in Times Square and here’s what they had to say . . .

“This is exactly what I was looking for.  It helped me plan my day better and I knew I was going to save money.” – Karen, Texas

“If I can find out in advance that a show is available, I’ll come to TKTS® more often, because I know my trip down won’t be wasted.” – Tom, NYC

So, if you’ve ever wanted to know what was up at the booth before you got in line (or even while you’re in line), download the app today.  It’s a must-have for any savvy Broadway and Off-Broadway theatergoer.

Get it here.

Special thanks to my staff, especially Melissa and Blair, who supervised the development, and special thanks to all of you who submitted your fantastic ideas for all different types of apps.  You helped inspire us to make something where there was nothing before.  Now, if you’ve got another idea for an app (or a dog food, a book, and hey, even a musical), go make it.  It ain’t brain surgery.

(And while you’re downloading apps, don’t forget you can get my blog in app form as well.  Get The Producer’s Perspective blog app here.  I’m funnier on an iPhone. Really.  It’s true.  If you were reading this on your phone, you would have laughed . . . a lot.)

Farewell to a great Broadway critic.

Michael Kuchwara was one of my favorite critics.

According to Merriam-Webster, one of the primary definitions of “criticize” is “to find fault with: point out the faults of.”

What was amazing about Mike was that he was able to adhere to that definition, yet his reviews still radiated with his love for the theater.  I don’t know how he did it, but even when he hated something, his reviews still sprung from an incredibly positive place.

Michael’s curtain fell way too prematurely this past weekend, when he passed away at the age of 63.

The industry has lost a lot more than a critic.  The industry just lost one of its dearest friends and supporters.

You’ll be missed, Mike.

To read more about Mike, click here.

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At the Broadway League Conference: Day 1/Kids ‘R Theatergoers Too

One of the hippest long-term audience development initiatives the Broadway League came up with over the last few years was the establishment of a Kids Advisory Board.  The Board is made up of thirty kids, ages 11 – 16, from all over the country.  What do they have in common?  They love the Broadway!

By tapping the minds of these young avid influencers, the League is able to learn the simple answers to a host of questions that could help secure the health of the Broadway theater through Generation Z (aka The Net Generation), Generation Ai, and beyond.

At the first day of the Broadway League conference, the League put six of the members of the Advisory Board on a panel and grilled them about their theater habits, their friends’ habits, and more.

Here is a bullet point list of some things that I learned from our next generation of audiences, actors, and producers:

  • The entire panel said that it was their parents who suggested which shows to see.
  • 5 of the 6 panel members said that their #1 internet destination was Facebook.  The 6th member didn’t have a Facebook page, but she did have a blog.
  • 5 of the 6 panel members did NOT visit any theater websites (e.g. Playbill.com, BroadwaySpace.com, etc.).
  • All of the panel members said their parents paid for their tickets.  One piped up and said, “That’s what they’re for.”
  • All of the panel members preferred musicals.  Half of the panel said that music was important for keeping not only their attention, but the attention of their younger siblings who couldn’t sit still for too long without the excitement of a musical.
  • One panel member was a pretty regular playgoer, but she said she didn’t start seeing plays until she was 14.
  • All of the panel watched the Tonys, but said their friends didn’t.
  • When asked what the #1 thing they enjoyed about Broadway was, a survey of these 6 plus another 700 revealed that the “performers” were the most exciting part (translation – expect more star casting in the future).
  • One of them read reviews, but none of them let the reviews influence their decision either way.  As the only boy on the panel said, “It doesn’t matter what they [the reviewers] say.  What matters is your opinion.”

There’s a lyric in Bye Bye Birdie that goes something like, “Kids!  Who can understand anything they say?”

Well, we better start trying to understand what they say, because these kids, and the thousands of others around the country just like them, are the premium ticket buyers of tomorrow.

A giant lollipop to The League for letting us listen.

Stay tuned for Day #2 from The League Conference tomorrow!

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Should previews be open for online review by bloggers, chatters and more?

Ellen Gamerman at The Wall Street Journal wrote a terrific piece last week about previews, and how problems that shows encounter during the several weeks of previews are exposed more in an online world than they were a decade ago.

It’s true.

Leading man flubbing his lines?  It’ll be all over the boards.  Problems in Act II?  Expect a blog about it.  Set come crashing down on the ensemble?  Well, in that case, you’ve got bigger problems than the boards and the blogs.

There’s a lot of people out there that are jumping up and down, throwing tantrums that two year olds would be proud of, saying, “You can’t review previews!  These people shouldn’t be talking about previews!”

To that I say . . . here’s a bottle of milk and a blanket, now get over it.

As much as we might not like our shows facing quicker criticism from audiences than ever before (and a few of mine have faced some harsh online attacks), there is nothing we can do about it.  Online word of mouth is the new Word of Mouth, and there’s nothing you can do to get in its way.  Can you imagine if any of the people upset about “preview reviews” went up to a group of folks at a Starbucks who were trashing a preview of a play and said, “You can’t talk about that show, it was a preview!”

The group would laugh, and probably trash the show even more.

Word of Mouth used to be invisible, which is why no one complained about stopping people from “chatting” about shows in previews.  The internet gives us (and others) a chance to see the formerly invisible force, which is why so many people want to stop it.

But you can’t.  We all need to realize that Online Word of Mouth and Traditional Word of Mouth have merged into one stronger and faster force of customer communication.

Critics, of course, who work for publications and are given free tickets, are subject to regulation.  One of the reasons I helped form the ITBA, was in the hopes that the new media warriors (aka The Bloggers) could get the same access as critics, which would give the shows a chance to reach a new audience, but with some control over when the bloggers were seeing the shows.

But if your chatters are paying for a ticket, you can’t stop the e-talkin’, so I wouldn’t even try.

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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