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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Me and some friends, poddin’ about social media.

The folks at 2AMt (AKA 2am Theatre) recently asked me to participate in a podcast about the ever-evolving world of social media. And, since it’s a hard subject to get me to shut up about . . . I did!

You can listen through iTunes here, and you’ll hear what I used to do at the mall when I was 10.

If you’re not familiar with the work that David L. and his army of 2AMers are doing over there, check it out. They are part of the revolution.

At the Broadway League Conference: Day 3/Wrap it up!

The final session of this year’s successful Broadway League Spring Road Conference was an open-mic wrap up of the week, the year, and asked the question . . . what do we do now?

Some of the issues that the membership wanted to hear more about in the coming year (and at the next conference) were dynamic pricing, how to educate the road consumers about new Broadway product before the shows get to town, lobbying against increasing entertainment taxes, social media, and social media, and more social media!

The session was topped off when one of my Favorite Quoters had his usual way with words when he said he felt there was no longer a “single bullet to sell tickets.”  A discussion erupted about how in the “Cameron Mackintosh Era,” the marketing campaigns for shows were easier to design, easier to implement, and always returned.

Not so much anymore.

We’ve changed.  And we’re not the only ones.

The record industry has changed, the movie industry has changed, the advertising industry has gone upside down and back around again.  We’re not alone.

The challenge for all of us is how we move quickly in the constantly-shifting marketing and development landscape, and how we share that information with each other (The Quoter suggested conference calls between markets presenting the same show so that those presenting that show later in the tour might benefit from the trials and tribulations of those who present it early in the tour).

The game has changed.  We have to learn the rules.

Or better . . . we have to rewrite them.

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How to start a revolution in 2010. A Betty White case study.

Betty White’s spectacular job at hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend proved a couple of things:

  1. 88-year-olds talking about their “muffins” is frighteningly funny.
  2. Social Media is not only here to stay . . . it’s here to influence.

In Betty White’s earlier days, if you wanted change, someone would undoubtedly tell you to write a letter. You’d hear,  “Write your congressman,” or “Write the President of the Company,” or maybe even, “Write the editor of the newspaper, maybe they’ll run it in the paper and maybe a few people will see it on that specific given day and then it will disappear.”

Imagine if David Matthews (the man responsible for the “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!” Facebook page that started this whole thing) had only a letter-writing campaign at his disposal to try and get that Golden Girl on the show.

Think it would have worked?

I’d bet you Facebook’s market value that it wouldn’t have.

Social Media is the new letter to your Congressman . . . without having to be addressed specifically to your Congressman.

Social Media is the new protest . . . without having to make signs or burn effigies or even show up.

You just have to click.

So if you want to get a beloved octogenarian on SNL, or fix a pothole, or maybe market a show . . . look no further than the screen in front of you.

And here’s the cool part . . . it’s a win-win for those wanting the change and those considering the change.

Public social media campaigns like the Betty Facebook campaign demonstrate what the market wants.   It’s a free focus group.  It’s listening to your audience. You think it took a genius network exec to actually agree to have Betty on the show?  It was the easiest decision Lorne Michaels has ever made!  With the type of friends and comments that Facebook page was drawing, and the amount of press the campaign was getting, it was a guaranteed ratings boost for the show.

Even if she hadn’t talked about her muffin.

For more on Betty’s muffin, watch the video below or click here.

An article about Social Media.

In case you didn’t get my tweet last week, here’s a link to an article I was asked to write for Mashable about Broadway and social media.

Special thanks to Mashable for having me. It’s always an honor to be asked to be a part of a community that is outside of our little theater world bubble.  Broadway is such an insular industry, but we’ve got more in common with other folks than we think.  And the uber-smart folks at Mash (Thanks Sharon, Adam and Pete) understand that.
Speaking of social media, Typepad, my blog host, has changed its setup in the last few weeks, which could use some ‘plaining:
If you want to share any of my blogs on social media (facebook, twitter, technorati, et. al), click on that blue “share” link with the green and white less-than sign next to it at the bottom of any of my posts.  A box will pop up with all of the social media options and you can share away (and thanks in advance for that).
And another nod of thanks to the Mashers.
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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