Updates: December 2017

December 1, 2017

Chapter 12: (Surprises)

At the end of every season (Tony time in June), the Broadway League updates its list of the longest running shows in Broadway history. “The Business of Broadway is accurate as of 2015 (directly below) so we’re updating the list to 2017:

2015: Broadway’s top twenty longest running shows are all musicals except Life with Father and Tobacco Road, both produced in the 1940’s. After decades of new dramas and comedies, it is surprising that these plays remain on the current list. Six of the top twenty (Phantom, Chicago, The Lion King,Mamma Mia!, Wicked, and Jersey Boys) are still running. Here’s the list as of 2014 according to Playbill.com and the Broadway League, although current shows will be moving up on the list. 1) The Phantom of the Opera (over 10,600 performances and counting); 2) the revival of Chicago (over 7,500 and counting); 3) Cats (7,485 performances); 4) Les Miserables (6,680); 5) The Lion King (over 6,500 and counting); 6) A Chorus Line (6,137); 7) the revival of Oh, Calcutta (5,959); 8) Beauty and the Beast (5,461); 9) Rent (5,123); 10) Mamma Mia! (over 5,000 and counting); 11) Wicked (over 4,500 and counting); 12) Miss Saigon (4,097); 13) 42nd Street (3,486); 14) Grease (3,388); 15) Jersey Boys (over 3,500 and counting); 16) Fiddler on the Roof (3,242); 17) Life with Father (3,224); 18) Tobacco Road (3,182); 19) Hello, Dolly (2,844); 20) My Fair Lady (2,717); Honorable mentions go to Hairspray, Mary Poppins, The Producers, Avenue Q, and the Roundabout Theatre revival of Cabaret.

June 2017: Broadway’s top twenty longest running shows are all musicals except Life with Father and Tobacco Road, both produced in the 1940’s. After decades of new dramas and comedies, it is surprising that these plays remain on the current list. FOUR of the top twenty (Phantom, Chicago, The Lion King, and Wicked) are still running. Here’s the list as of June 2017 according to Playbill.com and the Broadway League, although current shows will be moving up on the list. 1) The Phantom of the Opera (over 12,200 performances and counting); 2) the revival of Chicago (over 8,500 and counting); 3) The Lion King (over 8,100 and counting); 4) Cats (7,485 performances); 5) Les Miserables (6,680); 6) A Chorus Line (6,137); 7) the revival of Oh, Calcutta (5,959); 8) Wicked (over 5,800 and counting); 9) Mamma Mia! (5,758); 10) Beauty and the Beast (5,461); 11) Rent (5,123); 12) Jersey Boys (4,642); 13) Miss Saigon (4,092); 14) 42nd Street (3,486); 15) Grease (3,388); 16) Fiddler on the Roof (3,242); 17) Life with Father (3,224); 18) Tobacco Road (3,182); 19) Hello, Dolly (2,844); 20) My Fair Lady (2,717); Honorable mentions go to Hairspray, Mary Poppins, The Producers, Avenue Q, and Book of Mormon).

Chapter 10 (Investing and Producing)

No surprise that January is a weak month for ticket sales (except for monster hits). Therefore it is not big news that at least 5 shows have already announced that they will shutter their doors in mid-January, if not before.

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Updates: The Business of Broadway – November 2017

If you ever wonder why anyone thinks they can make a profit on Broadway and Off Broadway, we have two great examples last month…

Updates: November 2017

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Updates: November 2017

November 1, 2017

Chapter 10: (Producing and investing)

If you ever wonder why anyone thinks they can make a profit on Broadway and Off Broadway, we have two great examples last month. The “sleeper hit” Come From Away paid back its $12+ million dollar costs in full after only 8 months. From here on in, the investors will see profits on Broadway, on tour, if televised or filmed, with CD sales etc. etc.

The other big surprise is the Off-Broadway revival of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd playing in a tiny theater. It recouped its $1.2 million dollar investment in just 24 weeks. Perhaps the lesson from these two shows is that you need a HIT to do well. And that’s why investing is such a crap-shoot.

Rock icon Bruce Springsteen’s audiences are willing to pay the highest box office prices ever recorded on Broadway, an average of $457 per ticket, almost double that of Hamilton’s regular-priced seats. Of course, the scalpers are finding the richer audiences are willing to pay between $3,000 and $12,500 for a pair of seats to Springsteen. Amazing.

Of course, the shows described above (Come From Away and Sweeney Todd) paid back their investors without exorbitant prices. Supply and ridiculous demand?

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Updates: October 2017

October 1, 2017

 

CORRECTION: In the Union chapter as well as in each individual mention of a union, it should be noted that New York is not a “Right to Work” State – which means Unions can compel an employee to join.

Even though my union ATPAM and most other Broadway unions have a Union Security Clause in their contracts (known as the “30 day rule”), first time contract signers are rarely compelled to join a union. But if they are signed to a second contract job, unions will make them take out their checkbook and pay initiation dues and work dues.

 

CHAPTER 15 (Actors)

Carrying the Equity card is often considered a rite of passage for American actors, with many artists waiting years for an opportunity to join the union. As it stands, basic dues are $118 per year. Working dues come in at 2.25 percent of gross earnings up to $300,000 earned under Equity contracts. Now after a historic vote, members have overwhelmingly approved a dues increase adding $50 for basic dues in the first year, and rising incrementally to reach a final amount of $176/year.

 

CHAPTER 5 (Marketing, Promotion)

The Shubert Organization, the largest owner of Broadway theaters, has recently incorporated a program called “Persado” into its email marketing. Persado learns which “subject line” content engages customers most and adjusts on-the-fly to improve chances that customers will open the email (“open rates”) and improve chances that customers will them buy tickets (“conversion rates”). “Big Brother” is close at hand. 

 

Chapter 10: (Producing and investing)

            As expected, 3 more 2017 shows bit the dust around Labor Day. August is a tough month, but early September is even tougher.

 

Chapter 14 (Press Agents)

            New salary rates for Press Agents are as follows:

$2,271.54 minimum for press agents + 8.5% vacation weekly (plus health/pension)

 

Chapter 18 (Managers)

            New salary rates for Company & House managers are as follows:

$2,124.16 minimum for managers + 8.5% vacation weekly (plus health and pension)

 

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Updates: September 2017

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September 1, 2017

 

Chapter 10: (Producing and investing)

As expected, 3 more 2017 shows bit the dust around Labor Day. August is a tough month, but early September is even tougher.

 

Chapter 14 (Press Agents)

New salary rates for Press Agents are as follows:

$2,271.54 minimum for press agents + 8.5% vacation weekly (plus health/pension)

 

Chapter 18 (Managers)

            New salary rates for Company & House managers are as follows:

$2,124.16 minimum for managers + 8.5% vacation weekly (plus health and pension)

 

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Updates: July 2017

August 1, 2017
 
Chapter 5 (Marketing), 10 (Producing), 13 (Box office)
WICKED is now the second largest money-maker in Broadway history, surpassing PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. No doubt that Premium seat prices and "Dynamic Pricing" (that has only been used since the early 2000's) are to "blame". The audience size is about the same, but the ticket prices are much higher. The investors are happy, but what about the base theater audience from the middle class? Supply and demand? Results justify the means?
 
Chapter 9: (Selling a flop, hit, or moderately-well-received show)
Case in point: NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812. Producers often replace original actors with TV and film celebrities even when the original unknown actor was superb. This is a regrettable decision, sometimes causing pain for the original cast and adding a tone of dismay over the production.  When Josh Groban left Tony nominated GREAT COMET, he took with it a large portion of its commercial appeal. This multi-ethnic show replaced him with an excellent but unfamiliar African-American actor and then as soon as a box-office draw was available (Mandy Patinkin), cut short the run of the African-American actor. That did not play well with other theater folk and the headlines were damaging enough for Mandy Patinkin to bow out from a three-week-only run. Now the show has no one to play the lead, and box office proceeds are dropping by the day. They are talking about closing the show.
The power of celebrity is often stronger than the value of a good production.
 
Chapter 10: (Producing and investing)
Showing the power of winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, DEAR EVAN HANSEN is the first musical of the 2016/17 season to recoup its original investment. It's all profit from here on out. On the other hand, there have been multiple closings of shows that received other Tony Awards and/or nominations.

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Updates: June 2017

Chapter 4 (19 Unions)

Casting directors, who are hired on as consultants to help theatrical directors weed through the thousands of potential actors they might have to audition under Actors’ Equity rules, are the only major creative staff not protected by a union, even though other unions like ATPAM (Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers) have invited them in earlier years to organize and join.

Very recently, a group of casting directors have joined Teamster Local 817 and have written to the Broadway League (representing Producers and Theatre Owners) for recognition in the negotiation process. The Broadway League is reported to have responded with a firm no.

We’ll see. Could this be Broadway’s 20th union?

 

Chapter 10 (Investing and Producing: “Rebecca” lawsuit concludes)

Not sure where to file this news within the context of our Table of Contents, but it is significant to learn that the Producers of the ill-fated musical “Rebecca” that shut down operations one day before going into rehearsal, has both won and lost their lawsuit against the show’s press representative.

The Press Agent was ordered to pay $90,000 in damages to the Producers who claim to owe their original investors millions since the money was never legally available for use on the production. NYS law says you must have the full capitalization/investment in the bank before going into rehearsal. After discovering that its major investor was a con artist (currently in jail) and another investor never existed, the press agent secretly warned a new investor that this production was in trouble, thereby losing the new investor’s funding.

Obviously there are many, many more details to this story, but the biggest loss is that the option to produce the musical on Broadway has expired and therefore there will be no future production by these producers…ever.

 

Chapter 13 (Box office)

2017 stats show that while many staples (food, clothing, cellphones, computers, etc.) have come down in cost over the past 15 years, the biggest increases are found in theatre ticket prices, transportation, and toll charges into Manhattan. Perhaps that is why there is a drop in the number of suburbanites attending Broadway theater.

 

Chapter 15 (Actors’ Equity and diversity)

Furthering the data offered in our book, we now quote from the 2017 casting report compiled by Actors’ Equity Association.

In brief, Equity east coast membership of 32,193 is equally divided in terms of gender: 49.6% female/50.4% male. However, 60% of all principal contracts (for leading and featured roles) went to men, 40% to women.

In terms of ethnicity and race, 71% of all principal contracts (for leading and featured roles) went to Caucasian actors, 8 percent to African-American actors, 2 percent to Hispanic and 1.5% to Asian-American actors. 74% of all stage management jobs went to Caucasians.

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