Fun on a Friday: Will Ferrell back on Broadway.

Will Ferrell made a big announcement earlier this week when he appeared on David Letterman.

Yep, the big man that tore up the Cort Theatre for 8 weeks a little over a year ago (which I was lucky enough to produce), told Dave’s viewers that he’s coming back to Broadway.

And this time, he’s going to do a musical.  Watch below to find out which one. And think about how lucky the Producers of this show are for all this attention.

Oh, and Will?  If you’re reading, please do come back.  I’m still laughing at that “Oh Brownie” bit.  And those nicknames of yours, were . . . well, as George W. would say, “Genius.  G-E-N-I-S.  Genius.”  (If you want to the best of the bunch, click here.)

A fancy “futures” version of “Will It Recoup?” for Hollywood.

Cantor Fitzgerald is betting that there are a lot of people that want to be a part of the movie biz.

Last week, the New York Times announced that the financial firm is in the final stages of approval for a futures exchange on the success (or lack thereof) of Hollywood movies.

Here’s how it’ll work:

Think the new Will Ferrell movie will bring in $100 million during its opening weekend?  Buy a $100 million contract for 100 bucks.  If it does $150 million? You make $50.  If it does $50 million?  You lose $50.

Fun, right?  CF has been testing the potential interest in this market on its faux site, HSX.com, which allows you to play fantasy Hollywood with fantasy dollars. Check it out here.

Obviously the test went well, because they are proceeding full speed ahead and expect regulatory clearance on their actual exchange on April 20th.

The execs at CF expect participation from studios (a hedge against their own films?), institutions, and movie lovers who want who want to put their money where their mouth is. As Richard Jaycobs, the president of Cantor Exchange said, “I’ve worked in the futures industry for a long time and none of the products has the overall appeal that this does.  This just has a tremendous potential audience.”

Think we can get them to create a Broadway Futures Exchange next?

I’d put my money where my e-mouth is that there’s a tremendous potential audience for Broadway investment involvement as well . . . it’s just that most people don’t know how to be involved.

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Until they do create that exchange, we’ve got ‘Will It Recoup’ . . . and to give you a quick update, we did put one in the YES column when A View From The Bridge announced.  Other than that, it’s still anyone’s game (although there are a few shows out there that are unfortunately already on the brink).

What’s the West End doing right that we aren’t?

2009 was a thermometer-bursting year for West End theater.

Despite the world economic crisis, the West End set a record with a yearly gross of £504,765,690 or approximately $786,134,270, which is a 7.6% increase (!) from the previous year.

But that’s not what’s got me curious/burning with envy.

Even us tea partiers can keep the grosses going up year after year, thanks to our yearly price increase.

What’s remarkable about the London figures is that they’ve also managed to increase their attendance at the same time, by a whopping 5.5%, to a 2009 total of 14,257,922 theatergoers.

And this was all in the midst of a monumental recession!

Huh.  An increase in gross and an increase in attendance.  Isn’t that exactly what’s supposed to happen?

But it’s not happening here in the colonies.  We’re on track to see a drop in attendance for the third season in a row, despite slight increases in our grosses.

What is London doing right?

Is it the half price booths on every block?  Is it because they let you eat and drink in the theatres?  Is it because Hollywood stars seem even more willing to do West End productions than Broadway productions?

Is it because they have a Queen and Princes and say things like “bollocks”?

Nica Burns, the President of the Society of London Theatre (their version of our Broadway League), had this to say about the increases:

Britain’s artistic community continues to create exceptional work. The extraordinary quality and breadth of productions available nightly in London explains these record figures in such a difficult year economically.  Excellence is everything – look no further than London’s theatre which adds a great deal more to London’s revenue than just the ticket price.

Well said.  This is a product-driven industry on both sides of the ocean.  My only quibble is that I’d trade the word “excellence” with the phrase, “The Rumpelstiltskin Factor.”  When people are willing to give their first born away to see a show (whether or not it’s any “good”) that’s when numbers are going to increase.

If we had 12 Steady Rain-like shows with 12 Hugh Jackmans, our mercury would be rising, too.  12 Wickeds, 12 Will Ferrell’s and so on and so forth.

Still, it can’t just be that.  These increases suggest a different sort of energy occurring in the West End than is occurring here.  And I’m not quite sure what it is.

But I tell you this . . . I’d almost be willing to give them back one of the colonies in exchange for the secret.

Thanks to Tom Ray of Woodbridge, VA.

This week’s Entertainment Weekly rag, uh, sorry, I mean mag, had the following letter to the editor:

More theater reviews, please!  I enjoyed this issue but I want – need – more!

– Tom Ray, Woodbridge, VA

Thanks for speaking out, Tom. And thanks for reminding a major media outlet that there are Broadway theater lovers all over the country who are looking for more theater representation in what they read.

With the numbers of mega-stars stepping their star-studded shoes on Broadway stages these days (Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Scarlett Johannson, Will Ferrell, etc.), we have a chance to break into more mainstream publications.

Let’s hope EW and everyone else listens to folks like Tom . . . and folks like you.

In fact, why don’t we show Tom some support?

Write to Entertainment Weekly at ew_letters@ew.com or snail mail ’em at Entertainment Weekly, 135 West 50th St., New York, NY  10020.

Tell ’em you want more theater.

I’m serious.  Click it.  Tell ’em you agree with Tom.

It’ll take 30 seconds tops.

And tell ’em Ken sent you.  🙂

Oh, and Tom, if you read this, drop me a note. I tried to look you up in the 2009 version of the phone book (aka facebook) but came up empty.  I’d love for you to be my guest at one of my shows the next time you are in town.  We need more and more folks like you.

A Tony Award that’s not special enough anymore.

Nine years ago, the Tony Awards debuted a new award for Special Theatrical Event, to honor those shows that were slipping between the categorical cracks (like Contact in 2000, which won Best Musical, much to the shock of its own creators, who said so in their acceptance speech).

Earlier this week, the Tony Awards dropped it.

And everyone I know is wondering why.

The good money (and mine) points to the lack of consistent nominees in the category.  In the first year, there was only one nominee, and in three of the last nine years, there was no award given.

Could it also have been pressure to eliminate an award to slim down the telecast, allowing more time for the “creative awards”?  Could it be that the voters weren’t attending these special shows (how many actually saw Soul of Shaolin)?

Whatever the reason, I’m going to miss the category.  Sure, I’ll agree, if you can’t even find one nominee 33% of the time, then obviously the category is a little thin.

But still . . . if we didn’t have that category, then Elaine Stritch probably wouldn’t have won a Tony Award.  And neither would Billy Crystal.  And Def Poetry Jam too.

And Will Ferrell wouldn’t even have been nominated (and therefore probably would have never showed up).

Despite the lack of a plethora of nominees, the category seemed to be working for me.  There were some tight races.  There were some emotional victories.

And most importantly, there were some excellent performances and productions that deserved to be honored.

It will be a shame if the next Billy Crystal of Poetry Jam isn’t.

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