Sunday, August 4, 2013

Get Your "Book of Mormon" Here!

The new Broadway season has begun, a few shows are nearly ready to open and the busy fall is just a few weeks away. I don't know if it's just me, but I've noticed a heck of a lot of Book of Mormon advertising lately. A whole lot of radio and I think a lot of billboards and subway ads as well. I wonder what that's all about.

All long running shows have advertising that kicks in at various times of the year, often in the cold months of winter, announcing the rare availability of seats that would be ungettable and unthinkable during busier times of the year. Even the grand daddy of them all, Phantom of the Opera has often advertised at strategic points in the calendar.

Why does it seem different with Book of Mormon?

Mormon has been a record breaking blockbuster since it opened 2 1/2 years ago. It has been able to charge stratospheric premium prices for the majority of its seats, grossing a fortune, week after week. Why then, this burst of advertising for the show? Is it simply trying to keep it's brand in the public eye as newer shows come onto the scene? Or, might it be something else?

I have contended, as others have, that the current model for selling Broadway tickets, has contributed to what may turn Broadway into a place where dwindling audiences and reduced affordability will be the unraveling of Broadway as a viable institution. The Book of Mormon has been only the latest and most visible example of this.

Which brings me back to my original question. Why this advertising onslaught by the mighty Book of Mormon? I have no access to any of their financial information, only the figures released weekly by the Broadway League. The numbers are stellar, the grosses are lush. What might be lurking behind the numbers? Is it possible that after just 2 1/2 years that the outlying months of the Book of Mormon sales window are starting to slow down? Are seats any easier to get for Mormon now? Are premium priced tickets beginning to languish longer than before for the outlying months?  Has the audience that has been eager to shell out the fantastic premium prices to see the show started to dry up so soon?

Only the producers of Mormon know for sure, and they will never share this information. I could very well be completely wrong in my conclusion, but then, why would a show that is so solidly sold out feel the need to pay for advertising in the amounts we've seen lately? It smells fishy to me.

It would be a sad and damning indictment of the premium pricing model if it's true that Book of Mormon is starting to drop some early hints that it is on course for a premature burnout this early in it's run.   

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