“The Country House” Closes on Broadway

A Limited, but Extended, Run

country houseOn September 9, 2014, The Country House began previews at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway venue, the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The show had its official opening on October 2, 2014. Yesterday, November 23, 2014, the show played its final performance of the run. Though the show opened to mixed reviews and consistently brought in less than remarkable results at the box office, it extended from its originally announced closing date of November 9, 2014. If this were a normal commercial Broadway production mounted by independent commercial producers, then the show would have been likely to close early, rather than to extend. However, as MTC has a unique advantage by being a not-for-profit theatre institution with the capacity to produce on Broadway, it is able to rely on its endowment as well as its base of subscribers to sell a certain number of tickets, as well as to float through financial losses. The only other organization that rivals MTC in this advantage is the Roundabout Theatre Company, which has three venues on Broadway: the American Airlines Theatre, Studio 54, and the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Blythe Danner as Anna Patterson

In The Country House, Blythe Danner stars as a woman named Anna Patterson, a glamorous actress who is frustrated by the tensions ofcountry house a play she is in at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in rural Massachusetts. The play is written by Donald Margulies, an MTC regular whose past works have included Time Stands Still, Brooklyn Boy, and Sight Seen. The director was Daniel Sullivan, who has helmed such Broadway productions as The Snow Geese, Orphans, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Columnist, and The Merchant of Venice. Starring alongside Blythe Danner were Kate Jennings Grant (The Lyons), Eric Lange, David Rasche (To Be or Not To Be, Getting and Spending), Sarah Steele (Off-Broadway’s Russian Transport), and Daniel Sunjata (Macbeth, Cyrano de Bergerac). The play transferred to Broadway after a successful run at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse where its world premiere occurred on June 11, 2014. Almost the entire cast, including Danner, traveled with the show from LA to New York.

A Semi-Flop, But Good Enough

It is a sad state of the industry that a play that receives consistently mediocre reviews can still be produced on Broadway, simply due to the experience of the writer and director, as shepherded by an established theatre institution, as well as the simple name of one famous actor headlining the cast. In this case, Donald Margulies has had some great successes, but The Country House is not truly one of them. However, an organization like MTC would rather turn to a tried and true writer with an uninteresting new play, believing they can satisfy their subscriber base and continue to appear cutting edge. However, the reality is that it is the least innovative approach the organization can take, and they are faced with their own kind of internal bureaucracy. It appears that it is actually up to independent producers to blaze through the established norms to try out daring productions such as The River and One Man, Two Guvnors, which manage to fly on their own merits.

BET Makes Popular TV show “106 and Park” Online Only

Last Episode to Air December 19th

106 and parkBET has announced that the final episode for its 16-year running TV show 106 and Park will air on December 19, 2014. This music video countdown show, compared by some as the urban TRL, will continue to be aired on bet.com. Since it first began to air in the fall of 2000, it has been BET’s highest rated show for viewers aged 18 to 49. Stars seen on the show have included musical superstars Alicia Keys, Brandy Norwood, Ciara, Mary J. Blige, and Kanye West, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama and basketball star Dwayne Rade. The show has been filmed from the CBS Broadcast Center in midtown Manhattan ever since Viacom bought the channel, though it was originally produced in Harlem at the eponymous location.

Not a Cancellation, but a New Digital Brandbet trina

BET is billing this transition to digital-only as a new brand move, rather than a cancellation from cable television, which would previously have been considered a major retreat. They are calling it the new hottest hangout and on BET, one of the coolest online platforms. This is likely a good move, as many young viewers are primarily watching content online anyway. If all of those viewers adopt the new method of viewing their same favorite show from their computers, phones, and tablets, then BET will gain online royalty status to the kin of Netflix, therefore indeed reinforcing their online brand.

106 and Park

The current hosts are Bow Wow and Keshia Chante, and previous hosts have included Angela Simmons, Miss Mykle, Paigion, Shorty da Prince, Terrence J, Rocsi, Big Tigger, Julissa Bermudez, A.J. Calloway, and Free. It was first broadcast at 60 minutes, and has steadily grown in duration. The show is generally two hours long, although it sometimes is 90 minutes depending on the channel’s scheduling for the day. It is originally broadcast in the late night, early morning time of 2am/1am central, and has since played afternoons. Specials will continue to be aired on occasions such as the New Years Eve special 106 and PARTY.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 11/16/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A Low Week in the Broadway Fall Ebb and Flow

In the past few weeks, Broadway seems to be fluctuating between high weeks and low weeks. The week ending November 16, 2014 was one of the low weeks. Of the 35 shows presently running, only 7 of them saw an increase in ticket sales from the week before. The highest increase was seen by The Elephant Man, only because this was its first full week of eight performances. Of the other six shows that saw an increase, that increase was very slight: always under $100,000. Love Letters increased from $393,746 last week to $483,280 this week, which was only an increase of $89,534, and even then the show only brought in 61.89% of its gross capacity. Other increases were seen by Side Show (an increase of only $35,819, still only at 38.74% gross capacity), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (increased only by $11,242, and was already at over 90% gross potential), as well as On the Town, Once, and Cinderella, each of which only saw an increase of under $10,000. Otherwise, significant decreases were seen by shows including Wicked (decrease of $259,397) and The Lion King (decrease of $209,740).

High Grossing Plays

This fall season is shaping up to have a few solid box office contenders in terms of straight plays. The biggest non-tuner winner appears to be It’s Only a Play, which last week brought in $1,370,168 and has consistently been over the million dollar mark in every full performance week since it began its run. However, that show is less likely to score big in the Tony Awards, as its box office success is due mostly to the show’s stars including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Rupert Grint. The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper, is shaping up to be another big box office winner, having earned $966,896 last week in its first full performance week. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time continued its winning streak last week with a gross of $907,142, as audiences are drawn to this spectacular drama transferred from London. Finally, Jez Butterworth’s The River is a top earner with its headliner Hugh Jackman, having earned $723,882 this past week, and having earned close to a million dollars last week. Not only is Jackman generally understood to be box office gold, but Butterworth has quickly guilt a reputation as an unmissable playwright ever since his success with Jerusalem, and this box office success is all the more notable due to the tiny size of the Circle in the Square Theatre.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending November 16, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Analysis w/e 11-16-14

 

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A DELICATE BALANCE $852,393 6,416 100.00% $132.85
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $788,831 6,885 94.89% $114.57
ALADDIN $1,328,493 13,237 96.03% $100.36
BEAUTIFUL $1,318,454 8,222 100.17% $160.36
CABARET $686,271 6,106 85.47% $112.39
CHICAGO $413,434 5,372 62.18% $76.96
CINDERELLA $631,822 8,518 60.81% $74.17
DISGRACED $471,373 5,569 75.83% $84.64
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $607,949 6,308 89.49% $96.38
IF/THEN $466,852 6,975 66.50% $66.93
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $1,370,168 8,479 99.15% $161.60
JERSEY BOYS $727,348 6,994 71.19% $104.00
KINKY BOOTS $1,142,851 10,114 88.78% $113.00
LES MISÉRABLES $603,883 7,315 64.90% $82.55
LOVE LETTERS $483,280 5,603 74.95% $86.25
MAMMA MIA! $483,950 6,181 66.26% $78.30
MATILDA $744,214 8,578 74.88% $86.76
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $997,824 10,157 84.25% $98.24
ON THE TOWN $843,648 10,345 69.00% $81.55
ONCE $462,158 5,652 66.71% $81.77
PIPPIN $397,603 5,210 65.78% $76.32
ROCK OF AGES $323,042 3,718 79.72% $86.89
SIDE SHOW $449,747 8,957 85.93% $50.21
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,594,690 8,751 102.61% $182.23
THE COUNTRY HOUSE $187,209 3,641 70.02% $51.42
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $907,142 7,988 98.08% $113.56
THE ELEPHANT MAN $966,896 6,278 101.39% $154.01
THE LAST SHIP $536,449 6,648 61.60% $80.69
THE LION KING $1,527,989 13,319 97.93% $114.72
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $715,131 8,450 65.81% $84.63
THE REAL THING $455,145 5,512 93.11% $82.57
THE RIVER $723,882 5,695 102.28% $127.11
THIS IS OUR YOUTH $322,033 4,772 56.22% $67.48
WICKED $1,361,772 12,283 84.87% $110.87
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU $544,105 5,708 66.50% $95.32
Totals: $26,438,028 259,956 80.67% $99.19

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2014 nytix.com

“The Elephant Man” Begins Previews

Bradley Cooper As a Disfigured Protagonist

bradley cooper elephant manOn November 7, 2014, The Elephant Man began previews at the Booth Theatre. It will have its official opening night on December 7, 2014. Set in Victorian England, The Elephant Man was originally written in 1977 by Bernard Pomerance, and the original Broadway production was in 1979. At that time, it won three Tony Awards, those for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play (Jack Hofsiss), and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Carole Shelley). It also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, and it was also selected for inclusion in The Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook as one of the Best Plays of 1978-1979. In 2002, a Broadway revival starring Billy Crudup was nominated for two acting Tony Awards but won neither. This production stars Bradley Cooper as the eponymous Elephant Man (whose name is actually John Merrick), and it is directed by 6-time Tony nominee Scott Ellis. Cooper stars alongside Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Kendal and Alessandro Nivola as Frederick Treves.

Cooper’s Star Attraction

Bradley Cooper first played the role of John Merrick in a 2012 production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This is his second timeelephant man on Broadway, having also played the roles of Pip and Theo in a 2006 production of Three Days of Rain. Also, at the 2008 Williamstown Theatre Festival, he played the role of Jake in The Understudy. However, he is much better known for his performances on the screen. He has starred in such films as American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook (receiving Academy Award nominations for them both), The Place Beyond the Pines, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hangover trilogy, and many more titles. Bradley Cooper is a beloved actor, as seen by the notable box office success of The Elephant Man thus far. In its first week of four performances, it has already grossed $520,087, which represents 113.36% of its gross potential. Furthermore, with a top ticket price of $298.00, it had an average paid ticket admission of $163.45, which represents little to no discounting. Of the 3,096 total seats across those four performances, it sold a miraculous 3,182 of them (accounted for by the premium ticket sales).

The Story of the Elephant Man

It is clearly the star attraction of Bradley Cooper, rather than the flashy subject matter, that has drawn such numbers to the box office. However, though it may not be superficially engaging, the storyline of the play is also excellent. It is based on the real life story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century British man who suffered from extreme bodily deformity. He became a star of the freak show circuit, until a doctor takes him under his wing to study. He ends up being amazed by Merrick’s intellect, faith, and longing for love and loyalty. A romantic subplot emerges when Dr. Treves introduces Merrick to the beautiful Mrs. Kendal, who also sees his truly touching nature. However, Mrs. Kendal is not single, and there is a complex underlayer to their friendship, as she wants to protect him from the corruption of the real world. The Elephant Man is therefore a love story, but it is also the story of a man cut apart from the universe yet who still manages to maintain a virulent humanity. Interestingly, The Elephant Man is always performed without extravagant special effects stage makeup, so that Bradley Cooper displays the deformity through physicality alone.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 11/09/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A Complete 180 From Last Week

Whereas the previous week was a particularly low one for the Broadway box office, the week ending November 9, 2014 was a complete turnaround. Of the 35 shows presently running on Broadway, only three saw a decrease in sales from the week before: The Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia! (which are both long-running musicals for which this slight decrease isn’t particularly significant), and The Country House (a play struggling to stay afloat). Otherwise, the week was a serious improvement for most shows. In terms of increase from this week as compared to last week, the top earner was Jez Butterworth’s The River starring Hugh Jackman, which grossed $568,906 more this week than the week before (where it had only played its first partial week of 3 performances). In its first full week of eight performances, The River grossed $917,008, representing 104.89% of its gross potential, and selling 102.7% of its seats across the week. The top grossing shows this past week were The Lion King at $1,737,729, The Book of Mormon at $1,638,827, Wicked at $1,621,169, Aladdin at $1,410,648, and It’s Only a Play at $1,375,174 – all of which showed a substantial increase from the week before.

New Show: “The Elephant Man”

The Elephant Man began previews on November 7, 2014, with just 4 performances in its first week. It has exited with a bang, having grossed $520,087 across four performances, which represents 113.36% of its gross capacity. With a top ticket price of $298.00, the average paid ticket was the remarkable $163.45. Of the total 3,096 seats, there were somehow 3,182 of them sold. This show stars Bradley Cooper, a major Hollywood favorite who is well-known for his roles in such films as Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Place Beyond the Pines, and The Hangover Trilogy. He was nominated for Academy Awards for both Silver Linings Playbook (Best Actor) and American Hustle (Best Supporting Actor). In The Elephant Man, he plays a disfigured man in Britain who uses purely his own physicality, rather than makeup or special effects, to convey the disability. This is his second time on Broadway; his first was the role of Pip and Theo in 2006’s Three Days of Rain.

 

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending November 9, 2014:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-11-09-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A DELICATE BALANCE $857,375 6,416 100.00% $133.63
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $815,750 6,801 93.73% $119.95
ALADDIN $1,410,648 13,171 95.55% $107.10
BEAUTIFUL $1,330,829 8,214 100.07% $162.02
CABARET $741,877 6,379 89.29% $116.30
CHICAGO $479,182 5,926 68.59% $80.86
CINDERELLA $629,743 8,408 60.02% $74.90
DISGRACED $512,646 6,500 88.51% $78.87
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $624,148 6,370 90.37% $97.98
IF/THEN $569,810 7,556 72.04% $75.41
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $1,375,174 8,544 99.91% $160.95
JERSEY BOYS $826,987 7,909 80.51% $104.56
KINKY BOOTS $1,147,857 9,719 85.31% $118.10
LES MISÉRABLES $683,328 8,168 72.46% $83.66
LOVE LETTERS $393,746 5,086 59.53% $77.42
MAMMA MIA! $586,427 7,549 80.93% $77.68
MATILDA $892,409 9,892 86.35% $90.22
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,025,917 10,480 86.93% $97.89
ON THE TOWN $834,113 10,110 67.44% $82.50
ONCE $459,801 5,491 64.81% $83.74
PIPPIN $449,207 5,524 69.75% $81.32
ROCK OF AGES $323,107 3,778 81.00% $85.52
SIDE SHOW $413,928 7,135 78.23% $58.01
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,638,827 8,752 102.63% $187.25
THE COUNTRY HOUSE $209,004 3,722 71.58% $56.15
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $895,900 7,922 97.27% $113.09
THE ELEPHANT MAN $520,087 3,182 102.78% $163.45
THE LAST SHIP $543,860 7,145 66.21% $76.12
THE LION KING $1,737,729 13,502 99.28% $128.70
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $720,968 8,710 67.83% $82.77
THE REAL THING $490,862 5,823 98.36% $84.30
THE RIVER $917,008 5,716 102.66% $160.43
THIS IS OUR YOUTH $349,111 4,805 56.61% $72.66
WICKED $1,621,169 13,524 93.45% $119.87
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU $562,949 6,082 70.85% $92.56
Totals: $27,591,478 264,011 82.88% $102.46

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2014 nytix.com

CBS Colberts Late Show Being Tempted By California

Will The Late Show Stay in New York?

On July 23, 2014, CBS announced that when Stephen Colbert takes over David Letterman’s longtime seat as host of The Late Show, the show will continue to be filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio used social media to express his support of Colbert’s remaining in New York, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an official statement calling for Colbert staying in New York. Citing the reason that Colbert himself is New York based, Cuomo urged CBS President and CEO Les Moonves to continue the tradition of producing the show in the Ed Sullivan Theater. After all, The Late Show has long been a major source of revenue for the city and the state, as tourists flock to midtown and purchase tickets to sit in the audience of the show. However, several other locations made pleas for the show to move. Among these are New Orleans, Connecticut, and Los Angeles.

late show ed sullivan theaterLos Angeles Makes a Plea

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publically plead for the show to move to Los Angeles, and California Assemblyman Mike Gatto even announced that he, along with Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, would consider revising legislation to expand the tax incentives, specifically to lure The Tonight Show among other TV shows that would benefit from such a revision. In particular, the new law would offer the benefits to non-scripted shows that are offered to scripted shows, which gives a 25% incentive when the show relocates to California from other states. Other talk shows that are produced in Los Angeles include those led by hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Conan O’Brien. Still, a revised law might very well persuade more to follow suit. In February, Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show is taking a brief trip February 2-5, 2015 following their trip to Phoenix for the Super Bowl telecast. This marks The Tonight Show’s first stint out west since it moved back to New York City’s Rockefeller Center earlier this year.

colbert lettermanThe Late Show

The Late Show first aired in 1993 with David Letterman and its presenter and host. Letterman’s extensive career also included his role as the host of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC from 1982 to 1993. CBS’ The Late Show airs generally from 11:35pm to 12:37am, both Eastern and Pacific time. When it was announced in July that Colbert would take over Letterman’s seat, this marks the first time another host has led this show, and it will keep its same name rather than hanging to suit the new personality. Stephen Colbert, for his part, has long had a show on Comedy Central called The Colbert Report in which he plays a character. It has been announced that Colbert will leave his persona behind when he takes over Letterman’s job, instead playing it much more straight. It was also declared that the show would remain in New York City’s Ed Sullivan Theater. Despite Los Angeles’ attempts to revise its legislation in order to woo the show to the West Coast, New York stepped up to the challenge. First of all, CBS paid over $40,000 in campaign contributions to Andrew Cuomo in order for him to keep tax breaks in New York City. And it appears to have paid off, as a deal was made official on July 23, 2014 – including $16,000,000 in tax incentives over a period of five years. It therefore appears The Late Show will remain in New York City for the foreseeable future.

Shuberts Plan To Shutter BroadwayOffers.com By Thanksgiving 2014

Shubert Officially Replacing BroadwayOffers.com with TelechargeOffers.com

Shubert organization logo2014 has been a year fraught with poor decisions by the Shubert Organization when it comes to Broadway initiatives.  First, they launched the malfunctioning website TelechargeOffers.com to offer discount tickets to their telecharge.com ticket-buying audience. Now, the Shuberts are finishing the deed, announcing that they will be officially shutting down their original, much more functional discount ticketing site, BroadwayOffers.com, by Thanksgiving 2014. The original website broadwayoffers.com has been around since July 2001, and the Shuberts have already purchased the domain name space and brand up until July 2021. TelechargeOffers.com is the much newer, much buggier and significantly less popular site than its older sibling and is the website that is supposed to take over. It has been a bad start for TelechargeOffers.com, with less than 40% of users migrating to it. No stranger to monopolies, the Shuberts figured out that the way to increase the new site’s popularity and acceptance was to destroy its competition, and thus delete the original BroadwayOffers.com website completely. It seems that the Shubert’s often make choices that suit them the best, but cause chaos and confusion in the rest of the market.

The Shuberts Rhetoric Is To Play Nice – But Their Actions Indicate Otherwise

The Shuberts development choices in this matter effectively give users fewer choices, more problems, and a more complex process to buy Broadway tickets: the very opposite of what the Shuberts’ mission statement actually should be. It is the perfect example of an arrogant monopoly at work in the 21st century; Carlos Slim would be so proud.
Time after time, the Shuberts talk of slimming down the process of buying Broadway tickets, making it a simpler solution, improving the customer experience, improving the mobile buying experience and working with the industry to develop a better ticket buying model. The reality is that this is just rhetoric and the Shuberts are not only horrendously slow to adopt new ideas, but never make a move unless its clear that it will not affect their virtual monopoly on Broadway. It could be that that the strategist and the implementer at the Shubert Organization do not talk to one another, or they have an intermediary that puts the kibosh on good work. But the reality is, the Shubert Organization specializes in politics and this is just another example of its inner workings resulting in inaction.

The Shortcomings of TelechargeOffers.com

broadway offersThe Shuberts want to force all discount ticket sales through the beleaguered site TelechargeOffers.com, but the new website suffers from usability andtelecharge offers gray performance problems. One of its biggest failures is that It demands that users install the dreaded Microsoft Silverlight product that brings performance and security issues to users’ PCs. Users must install this software product just to be able to use the new website, which means that mobile users and non-PC users lose a great deal of functionality. Microsoft Silverlight is used to render the seating map, but it is not a mainstream product and thus requires most users to download an otherwise superfluous piece of software merely to see a graphic that many other much more common programs could easily offer. Furthermore, TelechargeOffers.com uses an ancient and complicated CAPTCHA system, which requires users to input annoying digits to proceed and prove they are not a robot or mass user ticket broker. In general, TelechargeOffers.com has serious issues with speed, functionality, and reliability, and thus the shutting of BroadwayOffers.com is a shame, if not a travesty.

Why Did The Shuberts Take This Negative Approach?Seating Chart for The Phantom of the Opera Tickets at the Majestic Theatre

The primary reason the Shuberts decided on this path forward is because they are trying to increase sales of full price Broadway tickets. For instance, when a discount code doesn’t work for a particular day, they are effectively forcing all their clients to see the alternative tickets available in the hope that they will buy tickets that are available. They also think they can do lots of Broadway ticket upsells. This idea wouldn’t be so bad if the new website wasn’t a complete disaster, but as it has so many technical and usability issues, the plan is both unfair and unwise. The Shuberts have had ample time to fix problems that were identified back in our July 4 2014 blog posting, which they have chosen to ignore. It is not quite clear who at the Shuberts have dropped the ball on this development, but David Andrews, Senior Vice President of Shubert Ticketing, Peter Entin, Vice President of Theatre Operations and Charles Flateman, Vice President of Marketing have failed in their duty to the Broadway industry.

The Shuberts Continue Their Strategy of Poor Consumer Experience

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing (formerly of Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours and co-founder of Broadway Inbound), true to his past form, had no comment for this story and refused interview requests, citing the Shuberts’ (non-existent) policy of not speaking to the press unless through a press release. Somewhat confused by the request, Mr Flateman erroneously referred all questions to Charlotte St. Martin, the Executive Director of The Broadway League.

“The Last Ship” Opens on Broadway

Sting’s First Broadway Effort

the last shipOn October 26, 2014, The Last Ship opened at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre. It had been running in previews since September 29, 2014. With music and lyrics by 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting, the musical has a book by John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then). Furthermore, the show is directed by Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Other Desert Cities) and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (Once, Rocky). The show tells the story of the citizens of an English seafaring town whose shipping business is on its last legs. The protagonist, a man named Gideon Fletcher, left home as a young man to seek greater adventures, but returns to find that his father’s business is failing and his one true love has pledged herself to another. The denizens come together in a grand collaborative effort to build one last ship, representing the dream that they have shared and their passion to keep it alive despite the hardships they are facing. Sting crafted this musical following his own experience growing up in Newcastle, and it shares a name with his eleventh album, The Last Ship, which came out in September 2013. This is the first time Sting has written a show for the stage.

The Reviews Are In

The reviews are in, and critics are mixed in their appreciation of the show. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times deemed it the last shipambitious and earnest, but couldn’t help but criticize it for being unfocused. There are two conflicting storylines – the romantic subplot and the main story of the seafaring town’s struggle – and they never come together in a coherent or satisfying way. He lauded the score for being one of the best composed by a Broadway outsider (that is, a singer-songwriter or otherwise established musician trying his or her hand on Broadway), which is a kind of underwhelming compliment. And though he appreciated the performances of the talented actors, he acknowledged the show is disadvantaged by its somber themes in comparison to the peppier shows competing for ticketbuyers’ attention. David Cote of Time Out New York, on the other hand, was more positive in his review. He called the show fervent and glorious, and yet he still admitted the book was lacking in comparison to the score. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press appreciated the testosterone level of the show, and was enervated by the score and the story both. David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter praised the show for returning to the concept of the original Broadway musical, with true soul in its roots, although he was still on the fence about the show’s overall success.

Struggling at the Box Office

Though more than a week has passed since these reviews came out, theatregoers do not seem to be encouraged to purchase tickets due to their increased awareness of the show’s existence. In the week ending November 2, 2014, the show grossed $495,069, which was actually a decrease of $51,845 from the week before and the show’s lowest weekly gross to date. This represents only 39.82% of the show’s gross potential, with an average paid ticket price of $78.17. Perhaps the show needs to discount more, but that will only take it so far. With mixed reviews, less than upbeat themes, and a highly competitive Broadway season full of Hollywood stars and compelling musical brands, The Last Ship may have a hard time staying afloat for very much longer.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 11/02/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

New Shows This Week: “The River” and “Side Show”

In the week ending November 2, 2014, two new shows began previews. First, on October 28, 2014, Side Show began performances at the St. James Theatre. Playing six performances across this first week of recorded box office figures, Side Show grossed the unremarkable amount of $349,563, which represents only 39.67% of its gross potential. With the maximum numbers of seats to fill being 7,818, ticketbuyers only ended up filling 5,696 of them. This goes to show that Side Show has been offering heavy discounts, as the average paid ticket was only $61.37, with a top ticket price of $197.00. On the other hand, The River began performances with an extraordinary performance out of the gates. In its first week, it played only three performances, and yet it grossed $348,102, which represents 103.5% of the show’s gross potential. With a top ticket price of $275.00, the show’s average paid ticket price was $161.01, which implies basically no discounting. Of the 2,088 seats to sell across these three performances, The River sold 2,162 of them, which seems physically impossible – and yet if anyone can achieve the impossible, it’s the team of Jez Butterworth and Hugh Jackman.

An Overall Slow Week for Broadway

This past week, the overall Broadway industry saw a decline in overall weekly gross of $2,393,852, earning a total of $23,464,674. This represents an average of $690,137 across all 34 shows presently running. This is a decrease of 10.20% from the week before. Of the 34 shows, 31 of them saw a decrease in weekly gross from the week before, whereas the only three that saw an increase were Disgraced, The River, and Side Show. Of course, it must be noted that the latter two increased from $0 the week before, as they opened this past week, so they don’t really count. And Disgraced, which only increased by $45,861 from the week before, is the anomaly having increased its gross each of the six weeks in which it has been running. Still, at its peak this past week, it only reached 52.47% of its gross potential.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending November 2, 2014:

Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-11-02-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A DELICATE BALANCE $850,150 6,416 100.00% $132.50
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $757,811 7,061 97.31% $107.32
ALADDIN $1,280,885 13,528 98.14% $94.68
BEAUTIFUL $1,033,975 7,844 95.57% $131.82
CABARET $611,122 5,474 76.62% $111.64
CHICAGO $444,182 5,493 63.58% $80.86
CINDERELLA $501,306 6,797 48.52% $73.75
DISGRACED $408,008 5,538 75.41% $73.67
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $498,001 5,413 76.79% $92.00
IF/THEN $404,308 7,361 70.18% $54.93
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $1,338,059 8,468 99.02% $158.01
JERSEY BOYS $675,647 6,782 69.04% $99.62
KINKY BOOTS $1,100,572 9,904 86.94% $111.12
LES MISÉRABLES $608,589 7,224 64.09% $84.25
LOVE LETTERS $258,377 3,961 46.36% $65.23
MAMMA MIA! $602,891 7,247 77.69% $83.19
MATILDA $760,087 9,441 82.41% $80.51
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $855,012 8,993 74.59% $95.08
ON THE TOWN $675,371 8,749 58.36% $77.19
ONCE $341,135 4,836 57.08% $70.54
PIPPIN $377,838 5,026 63.46% $75.18
ROCK OF AGES $278,848 3,476 74.53% $80.22
SIDE SHOW $349,563 5,696 72.86% $61.37
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,535,238 8,751 102.61% $175.44
THE COUNTRY HOUSE $217,819 3,565 68.56% $61.10
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $862,004 7,911 97.14% $108.96
THE LAST SHIP $495,069 6,333 58.68% $78.17
THE LION KING $1,700,190 13,395 98.49% $126.93
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $724,322 8,848 68.91% $81.86
THE REAL THING $433,827 5,765 97.38% $75.25
THE RIVER $348,102 2,162 103.54% $161.01
THIS IS OUR YOUTH $294,214 4,058 47.81% $72.50
WICKED $1,329,813 12,097 83.59% $109.93
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU $512,339 5,656 65.89% $90.58
Totals: $23,464,671 239,269 77.09% $95.19

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2014 nytix.com

“Disgraced” Opens on Broadway

Unanimously Positive Reviews

disgraced posterOn October 23, 2014, Disgraced had its official opening night at Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre. It had been running in previews since September 27, 2014. The show transferred to Broadway following a successful critical run at Lincoln Center Theatre’s Off-Broadway venue the Claire Tow Theatre, which focuses on producing plays through the LCT3 initiative for new writing. This play was written by Ayad Akhtar, a Pakistani American who studied Directing in graduate school at Columbia University after earning his BA in theater at Brown University. He has worked as an actor as well as writer for film and television, and Disgraced was his first play. Amazingly, his debut into playwriting earned him the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Perhaps predictably, then, the critics unanimously loved the play. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times gushed over the deliciousness of the play (which takes place over dinner), declaring the show a Critics’ Pick. David Cote of Time Out New York loved that the play was issue-based. Thom Geier of Entertainment Weekly determined that the play was indeed worthy of the Pulitzer Prize, and Mark Kennedy of Associated Press praised the show’s punch and power.

Now Will The Numbers Match the Praise?

As is always a question when a play earns top reviews, it is now to be seen whether the box office figures will follow suit in earning top disgracednumbers. However, it is unfortunately infrequently the case that they do. The exception, for some reason, seems to be British plays, which often earn extraordinary figures following extraordinary reviews, even if the public had never heard of the play before the cross-Atlantic transfer. In this case, however, Disgraced has merely transferred some blocks downtown from Lincoln Center to Broadway, and thus it will be difficult to prove to the public that it is worth shelling out for the higher priced fare. After all, when Disgraced ran as part of the LCT3 initiative for new writing, the tickets were a mere $25. It is difficult to justify the price spike, especially when the cast does not include any A-list stars. The closest is Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire) in the role of Emily. Of course, there is the fact that the show has now won the Pulitzer Prize and has widely been deemed excellent. Still, it is often difficult to break through the barrier of skepticism when there is so much competition among new shows this season.

Box Office Performance Thus Far

In the most recently reported figures, which was the week ending October 26, 2014, Disgraced brought in $362,147, which represents only $46.84% of the show’s gross potential. Fortunately, the box office figures have been on a steady incline, beginning with the first full week’s figures (the week ending October 5, 2014) of $292,989 – and that week had only 7 performances. Now that the production is up to a normal eight performance week, it has the potential to fill 7,344 seats over the course of the run. Unfortunately, at its peak thus far, it has only sold 5,990 of them. With a top ticket price of $198.00, the show is heavily discounting, because the average paid ticket price that past week was only $60.46. Still, it is likely that the numbers will increase, if not extraordinarily, as the run continues and word of mouth spreads. At least, that is the pattern the numbers are displaying thus far.