October 1, 2016
Chapter 5 & 10 & 13 (Holiday scheduling) Managers/Producers/Box office: Every year before fall and winter tickets to on sale to the public, managers and producers, after consulting with treasurers, press reps, and ad execs, huddle together to determine the holiday schedule of performances. Thanksgiving and Christmas week are the most lucrative weeks of the year and a scheduling mistake can mean a big loss of profits. Some shows add a ninth performance and/or a seven-day week (note: there can be large union payroll costs for taking away a God-given day off!). Jockeying for the tourist audience, at often full-price due to demand, is a tricky decision. Christmas week is more difficult because Christmas and New Years fall on different days each year.
Most plays and musicals will choose not to perform on Thanksgiving day or eve. In 2016, the exceptions will be Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, The Color Purple, On Your Feet, Waitress, Matilda, Phantom, and new musical arrival Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The other 26 shows will not perform.
Chapter 5 Marketing/Promotion: Our book mentions Canadian-convicted conman producer Garth Drabinsky (Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman), his expensive marketing strategies, and his history of investor fraud. He is still a wanted man in the United States. And yet, having been released early from Canadian prison, he is planning a Broadway comeback in 2017. More-to-come.
Chapter 10 Producers/Investors: Out-of-town shows are often fodder for possible Broadway transfers but announcements are too often made too quickly. Multiple shows from Chicago, Austin, the West End and more have been announced for the next two seasons on Broadway, but have either hit financial snags, or critical reviews that sent the shows back to the drawing board. Producers are anxious to attract investors, and nothing helps more than announcing that a show is going to Broadway and “you can get in at the early stages.” It’s sometimes a trap, and more often, the words of a novice. When a show is ready, a Broadway theatre owner will commit his theatre with a date attached. And with so many long-running hit shows tying up Broadway’s 40 (soon-to-be 41) theatres, announcements should be taken with a grain of salt.
Chapter 10 Producers/Investors: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony winning musical In the Heights is being made into a film, and the show is currently on stage in the West End of London. This is yet another important lesson about the profits that accrue after a show has already closed on Broadway. Subsidiary rights can be the most lucrative element in a Broadway investment.
Chapter 15 Actors: The details of the Hamilton fight over profit-sharing rights for actors, who were part of the Off-Broadway show and rehearsal process, is over. Even though Broadway contracts had already been signed, 22 actors and stage managers renegotiated as a unit, caused quite a stir, and the terms of the finalized deal has just been released. The actors will divide up 1% of the net profits of the Broadway run, and .33% of the new Chicago and L.A. productions as well as all other US productions. Not included in the deal are any revivals on Broadway or anywhere else. Jeffrey Sellers, the show’s lead producer, had made a counter-offer of a one-time buy-out (between $29,000 and $36,000 per cast member) but was rejected by the cast. Considering the Hamilton’s weekly net profit is significantly more than $1 million dollars (do the math), the company of 38 Equity members will continue to earn a moderate weekly stipend for decades to come.
The actors’ successful stance will perhaps open union discussions for profit-sharing on all shows in the future. Perhaps not. Many on Broadway were surprised to learn that The Book of Mormon has a profit-share deal as well.
As described in our book, the first profit-share came from the workshop of A Chorus Line, where the actors were paid $100/week to share their stories with the show’s creators for an entire year of development.
Chapter 18 House (Theatre) Managers: Although ATPAM house managers sign contracts to supervise one particular Broadway theatre for an entire year (Sept-Aug), there is much downtime between the closing of one show and the opening of the next. Since most shows close without advance notice, the next show cannot be scheduled immediately, leaving sometimes months between uses of the venues. In this case, the ATPAM house manager is out of work…and yet committed to the theater owners. Precarious.
Another pitfall for the otherwise consistent job of house manager comes when a show moves from one theatre to the other. One such case is the new musical Dear Evan Hansen, scheduled to begin performances at the Belasco Theatre in October 2016, but suddenly moved to the Music Box Theatre (made empty by the unexpected closing of Tony nominated musical Shuffle Along). So the Music Box house manager is happy, but the Belasco is now dark for many months.
Chapter 25 People news: Paul Libin (Producer/Theatre Owner/Manager), who is interviewed in our book, will be inducted in the Theatre Hall of Fame this November, adding still another credit to his lifetime of experience.
Chapter 26 Resources:
New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (151 West 30th St. 11th Floor NY, NY 10001) provides pro bono legal assistance for Non-Profits in NY city. www.nylpi.org