Fun on a Friday: See Spider-Man for free.

On Wednesday, I spoke about the importance of the contrarian view.

Well, you can’t get much more contrarian that this.

Enter Justin Moran, who earlier this month issued a challenge to himself and to commercial theater in general when he announced that he would be producing his own version of a Spider-Man musical . . . with a budget of zero dollars.

In the YouTube video below, Justin announced that over a 30 day period, he (and whomever he could drum up for some support – including this talented lad) would write, cast, compose, rehearse and open his Spider-Man . . . before the official opening of the $65 million dollar monster on 42nd St.

He’s vowing to beat ’em on budget and beat ’em on time.

And get this, there won’t be any premium prices for his seats.

Everyone gets in for free.

Although with only one performance at The People’s Improv Theater (which seats about 17.4 very tiny people), the tickets could actually be harder to get than tickets to the actual Spider-Man!

Will he succeed?  Will he get a cease & desist?  Will it be any good?

Who knows.

But I do know this . . . it sounds like a lot of fun.

For more info, visit The Spidey Project.

Oh, and Justin, if you read this . . . and are looking for some rehearsal space, we’re happy to donate some time to your cause.  Anyone who challenges themselves and the system is a winner in our book.  Send me an email.

 

 

 

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5 Signs that Broadway is becoming more like Vegas.

I’ve been in New York for just shy of two decades now, and to say things have changed in the theater district is as obvious as saying Wicked is a big hit.

The transformation of Times Square into a Vegas Strip-like scene seems to have had an effect on what’s happening inside our theaters as well.

Here are 5 things I’ve noticed that indicate we’re getting Vegas-ized:

1.  WHO IS THE HEADLINER?

We’re becoming increasingly dependent on the names in our shows, just like the casinos have depended on Wayne Newton and friends for years.  In some cases (A Steady Rain, anyone?), Shakespeare has gotten a rewrite because now, “the star’s the thing.”

2.  A TRIBUTE TO TRIBUTES.

When Love Never Dies canceled its Fall NYC opening, the show that took its place wasn’t a limited run play revival.  Instead it was Rain, a Beatles tribute show that has been touring the nation.  If it succeeds, expect more of this type of entertainment to be coming down the long and winding road.

3.  BROKERS ARE NOT GOING BROKE.

In Vegas, the Brokers mean business.  If you don’t have them on your side, you’re gonna get Bugsy Siegeled in no time.  In NYC, they don’t wield that much power . . . yet.  But as they continue to out-spend us on advertising, and continue to organize, we may find ourselves not wanting to sit with our backs to the door, if you know what I mean.  My suggestion?  We all have a sit-down.

4.  PARDON ME, I DON’T SPEAK AMERICAN.

International audiences have been slowly increasing here in NYC, with the Broadway League reporting that 21% of our audience was from around the globe in 2008-2009.  21%!  That means more than 1 in 5 people that see a show many not speak English as their first language!  You’d have to be high on glue to not think that stat has an effect on what runs.  If it increases, expect more and more non-verbal entertainment or spectacular events to take over our boards, like, oh, I don’t know, Spider-Man?

5.  ADVANCE = DAY OF.

It used to be that our tourist audiences picked up a paper before they came into town and bought their tickets in advance.  When my Mom bought my fam Phantom tickets we waited EIGHT months. And we sat in the 2nd row from the back. (Side note: when I went to see it a second time, I bought tickets from a broker because I wanted a great seat.)  Our audiences are becoming more like Vegas audiences, and waiting until they get here to decide, causing most shows to have more availability, requiring more discounting, etc.  So much of our marketing dollars now have to be spent on converting the customer when they get here, instead of before.

Will Broadway become the U.S’s second Strip?  I doubt it.  Great plays and great musicals will always have a place here, whereas I can’t imagine that The Pitmen Painters or Next to Normal will ever play The Mirage.

But we do have more in common with Vegas than ever before.

And you can place a big bet that this trend concerns me.

What will happen to Broadway if Spider-Man is a hit?

When the work started back up at the Hilton Theater recently, it felt like that moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when, after years of silence, smoke started coming out of the chimneys.  “The Oompa-Loompas are back to work!  They’re making chocolate again!”

Well, unfortunately for the Producers of Spider-Man, they don’t have Oompa-Loompas to do their pre-production.  Their labor costs a lot more than a free room and all the chocolate you can eat.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding what’s going on in that theater.  Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen on opening night.

Me?  I’m more interested in what happens after opening night.

Spider-Man is the biggest show that Broadway has ever seen.  I’ve compared it to the movie version of Titanic and Avatar before, as it has the potential to create that kind of tsunami-like splash.

But what happens in the aftermath?

First, let me state how much I’m fantasizing about Spidey-success.  That same post I linked to above talks about the potential it has to bring new audiences to the theater, to bring more rock-star composers to the theater, and to re-energize our market by giving us one of the most unique events we’ve ever seen.

It could be a game-changer.

It could also drive up capitalizations and costs quicker than Clark Kent can change into Superman.

We’re an industry that swings for the fences.

And regardless of how out-of-whack some of our labor rules may be, or or royalty pools, or GM fees, and so on . . . when you get a hit, none of it is out of whack.

And that’s why the fees are so high.  The unions, vendors, and so on, keep the rates at high levels to make sure that they have what one Producer I know calls “Bonanza Insurance.”

I call it Phantom Insurance.

And those rates and fees will always stay high, as long as there is one show that defies the odds and mints money like the Oompa-Loompas mint . . . uh . . . mints.

So, if Spider-Man sets a new bar . . . will the unions and creatives and Producers have to set a new one as well?

Me? I’d rather have a whole slew of hits than just one super-sized hit.  So when you hear, “If Spider-Man can do it, ” even if it comes out of your own mouth, make sure whatever you’re discussing makes sense (and ‘cents’) for your show.

Because Broadway musical budgets 50 years ago were less than a million bucks.

Now the average is getting closer to 15 million.  That’s an increase of 1500%. And inflation has increased.

What will the average be in 2060?

Broadway’s 1st Quarter Results: Summer Lovin’ happened so fast.

With the end of the summer comes the end of the first 13 weeks of the
Broadway season, which means it’s time for us to check in and see how
the grosses and attendance are stacking up so far.

And lo and behold, it looks like Santa got his seasons messed up, because we got a nice present this summer!

Grosses
are up a considerable 2.9% this quarter, as compared to the first 13
weeks of last season.  Attendance notched up 1.1% as well.

This is quite a difference from the first quarter last year, when we were down 3.2% in the gross column and 9.6% in the attendance column.

Why the difference?  Is the economy better?  Were there more tourists in town?

I think the answer is simpler than that.

In the first 13 weeks of this season, there were simply more shows.  Playing weeks were up 7.3% over last year.

I
think we’ll slip back a bit this Fall, as the season looks a little
light (I’m expecting a surprise closing announcement from at least one
show).  However, I am still holding firm with my projection that will see modest increases in both attendance and grosses for the year . . .

. . . Especially now that Spider-Man looks like it’s finally ready to cast his web.

See you in Q2!

My Top 5 Moments from Last Night’s Tony Telecast

Just like last year, here are five of my favorite things from last night’s Tony telecast.

1.  Sometimes the best speech is none at all.

Marian Seldes shocked (and scared) the crowd in the most classy way possible, by not saying one word after walking on stage to accept her Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.  It was a little odd, and a little awesome, all rolled into one legend.

2.  Neil Patrick who?

Sean Hayes tore up the stage as Annie, Spiderman, and as a straight guy making Kristin Chenoweth weak in the knees with that tongue-down of an opener. He was as good of a host as we could have asked for.  You’ve been raked through the ridiculous mud over the past couple of months, Sean.  But your gracious talents have made you even sexier to all sexes because of it.

3.  The straight play mashup.

You gotta give the Tonys some credit.  Every year they try a new way to include the straight plays in the telecast.  This year, it was a pair of starry performers from each play describing the plot to the audience (and if those descriptions were getting awards, then Next Fall would have won hands down), as well as remix mashup of straight play b-roll from all of the plays on Broadway this season.  If you didn’t see it, imagine a 17-year-old club kid who also loves straight plays making a three minute tribute to post to his YouTube account.  Was it successful?  I don’t know, but the effort deserves some applause.

4.  Watching a Tony Award audience try to clap in rhythm to Green Day.

Having Green Day on the show was like striking Radio City with a lightning bolt. Has there ever been that much pyro on a Tony Awards telecast?  It was awesome, and hopefully it got the younger crowds at home to tune in.  The older crowd that was in the audience at RCMH however, seemed to have a little trouble finding their punk-groove (did you see Michael Douglas trying to get into it with that head bob?).  The issue of this audience not naturally being in tune with this type of music was made much more obvious later, when American Idiot failed to win the Tony.  But thank you Green Day for bringing your passion and your popularity to our stage.

5.  The Tony for good sports goes to . . 

Bebe and Nathan.  No last names required.  They didn’t need to co-present. They didn’t need to poke fun at themselves.  They didn’t even need to be anywhere near the building.  But they did it all, and once again proved why they are the stars that they are.  This business is going to take us all on a ride.  You’ll be up one second, and down the next.  You’ll have your face on a billboard, and then you’ll be fighting for a bio in a program.  But maintaining a level head about it all is what makes people fall even more in love with what we do.

Other fave moments from the show included the LED wall (less sets, less expenses), Catherine Zeta’s acceptance speech, the Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele Glee-fest, and Daniel Radcliffe presenting with the 2-foot-taller Katie Holmes.

Overall, I’m giving the telecast a B+.  An A- would have been easy, if it weren’t for the many sound f-ups.  I mean, you found a way to bleep out “MIND F***” from American Idiot‘s performance, but you can’t get the mic to work for others?

What were your favorite moments from this year’s Tony Awards?

And stay tuned for the announcement of our Producer’s Perspective Tony Pool winner tomorrow!  Someone is getting an iPad!

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