Saturday, December 31, 2016

Broadway Alchemy

                               Image result for money

What does it take to have a success on Broadway?

The right stars? The right show? The right director? The right play? The right theater?

It's been posited through the years that you need all these things to succeed on Broadway. Truth be told, in a business where the majority of shows fail to pay back, let alone make a profit, if there were a set of rules one could follow to insure success, that instruction manual would have been written long ago.

Broadway has a lot of superstitions about its theaters. Old saws that try to explain why shows they house succeed or not. Some theaters are on the wrong side of Broadway. Some have balconies that are hard to sell. Some have small orchestra sections, fewer seats that can be sold at the highest prices. Some theaters are just thought to have bad juju. How else to explain a show failing?

Years ago, during a down period in the business cycle of Broadway, some theaters were simply designated as "endangered". They were deemed unable to house or sustain Broadway shows without major union concessions. Well, fast forward to the present day, and we see the times, they have a-changed.

We've just finished the week between Christmas and New Year's, the biggest week on the Broadway calendar. When the grosses are published next week, they will be lush. I expect the headline will be about a Hamilton $4 million dollar week, or something close to it. That's not really a surprise.

For those interested in the arcania of Broadway grosses, I recommend peeking down the list to the Lyceum theater, home of Oh Hello on Broadway. This little comedy, with a couple of Broadway newbies by way of cable TV, will have smashed the house record with an astounding gross north of $900K. I'll not spoil the surprise of the actual number, but for the little Lyceum, once on that list of "endangered" theaters, it is nothing less than a paradigm shift in what can be thought of as what is possible to do in a small playhouse in the era of variable pricing and premium priced tickets. It's a real game changer.

Yes, it's the busiest week of the year, with nine performances to boot. But this show has been racking up big time numbers for weeks, and is promising to finish strongly in the last three weeks of it's run. And, it's doing it on the wrong side of Broadway, with a tiny orchestra section, and a difficult to sell balcony.

How fortunate that the producers aren't the superstitious type.

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