Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm Feeling Reflective... Bizarrely

In 1993 there was a big study released which said that, based on the previous 50 years, 76% of musicals and 80% of stage plays did not recoup their investment. Today we always say, 1 in 5 makes money, which is basically the same thing. However I worry that in 50 years when do this survey, we'll see that even fewer productions are recouping. Why? Many reasons... Of course I worry about increased productions costs outpacing inflation and ticket price increases (no matter how ridiculous those seem). But more than that, I believe that the loss of the old-school Broadway producer will one day soon be felt in ways more tangible than simply reduced show quality.

I was at a dinner party this week with a bunch of industry folks, many of whom are part of the new crop of investor-producers. Many of you not in the industry may not know/care anything about this, but in recent years we've seen less lead producers who dedicate their life to theater producing and run their shows like businesses. We've seen more of people who in the past might have been mere investors, now taking producer billing. A lot of these people are dabbling in theater--it's not their lives work or anything. Now, I'm all for anyone who wants to produce a Broadway show. We need those people--this is a risky business and without the people who are willing to take risks, there would be nothing on Broadway. (There is no sure thing.) But, the problem is, if these people don't surround themselves with veterans who are willing to speak up, it sort of ends up that there is no one steering the ship. These are people who believe in their project, but they can't really guide it, if guidance is required.

It's like, at this dinner party, I spoke to a producer about to have his first Broadway show. He has invested before, but never seen his name on the Playbill front page. He said he was very proud of a recent reading of his piece--everyone loved it. I asked who was there and it was a list of 40 friends. Enough said.

Now there are still people who run their shows as businesses--I have my opinions on this and feel free to leave yours--but a lot of it is going on love. I'm all for love. If you have the money (or know people who have the money) and you believe in something, I'd like to see it. As a matter of fact, I am all for seeing multiple versions of In My Life a season. I think I might be pretty much alone in that though. For those who are paying $125 a ticket, they want something that is a well thought out, cohesive product. To get that product shows frequently require a real producer. Without that element, I worry. Sure, attendance is up, but I fear it will not keep rising. How long before show quality effects the overall bottom line?

No comments: