Shuberts Plan To Shutter By Thanksgiving 2014

Shubert Officially Replacing with

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 to offer discount tickets to their 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,, by Thanksgiving 2014. The original website has been around since July 2001, and the Shuberts have already purchased the domain name space and brand up until July 2021. 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, 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 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

broadway offersThe Shuberts want to force all discount ticket sales through the beleaguered site, 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, 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, has serious issues with speed, functionality, and reliability, and thus the shutting of 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:


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 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

“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.

“Side Show” Begins Previews on Broadway

Come Look At The Freaks

side showOn October 28, 2014, Side Show began previews at Broadway’s St. James Theatre. Official opening night is scheduled for November 17, 2014. This spectacle-filled musical about a freak show in the 1930s premiered on Broadway in 1997, running less than 4 months before it flopped and had to close. This revival, however, has taken a different approach. Whereas the earlier advertising campaign had an old-fashioned picture of a 1930s side show with audience members eagerly wondering what lay on the other side of the curtain, in 2014 the producers have decided to up the Hollywood lights and portray the leading ladies – Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton – more like Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart in Chicago, except conjoined. In fact, Side Show is based off a true story of real Siamese twin circus performers Daisy and Violet Hilton, who were also the subject of the 1932 pseudo-documentary film Freaks. The 1997 premiere, though closing early, earned four Tony Award nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Score, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Alice Ripley as Violet), although it failed to win any. Nevertheless, the musical has gained somewhat of a cult status since its original production, enough to warrant a glitzy revival.

Cast and Creative Teamside show erin davie emily padgett

The musical has book and lyrics by Bill Russell (Call Me Madam, The Last Smoker in America) and music by Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls, The Tap Dance Kid). This production is directed by Bill Condon (Chicago the film, Dreamgirls the film, the Twilight film series), who also contributed new material to the revival. Reportedly, the revised book focuses more on the principal storyline of the sisters searching for love in a world apparently set against them, and less on the supporting characters of the various freak show performers. The lead roles of Daisy and Violet Hilton are respectively played by Emily Padgett (Rock of Ages, Grease, Legally Blonde) and Erin Davie (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Little Night Music). Other cast members include Matthew Hydzik (West Side Story, Grease) as Buddy Foster, Robert Joy (Abe Lincoln in Illinois) as Sir, Ryan Silverman (Cry-Baby, Chicago) as Terry, David St. Louis (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Jake, and many ensemble members playing multiple roles including other performers in the freak show.

The 2014 Revival

This updated production of Side Show had two pre-Broadway tryouts. From November 5, 2013 to December 15, 2013, the show ran at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, directed by Bill Condon and starring Erin Davie and Emily Padgett. Then, from June 14, 2014 to July 13, 2014, the same production with the same leading ladies played at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. These two productions were successful enough to attract the attention of Broadway producer Darren Bagert, who assembled the producing team to raise the $7.8 million capitalization needed to bring this show to Broadway. Although the 1997 production quickly flopped, there may be more hope for this revival. First of all, freak shows have recently re-entered the zeitgeist, thanks to shows such as American Horror Story: Freak Show. Furthermore, this musical is so little known due to its previous failure that it may actually have the chance to reinvent itself anew in the minds of theatregoers. The verdict will be more determinable after reviews come out following the opening night of November 17, 2014.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 10/26/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“A Delicate Balance” Off to a Flying Start

On October 20, 2014, A Delicate Balance began previews at the John Golden Theatre. In this first week of recorded box office figures, representing a full week of eight performances, the show brought in a remarkable starting gross of $884,596, which represents 102.25% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $323.00 and an average ticket price of $137.87, the show was completely sold out, having sold all 6,416 seats across the eight performances. The success of this show is not simple to explain, as though it does have a cast full of stars, so do other shows that aren’t selling quite as well (for example, The Real Thing). Nevertheless, ticketbuyers are drawn to the names attached to A Delicate Balance, including not only the playwright Edward Albee and the director Pam MacKinnon, but more importantly the actors Bob Balaban, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, and Martha Plimpton. In addition, credit must truly be given to the producer, Scott Rudin.

A Continuing Decline for Long-Running Musicals

The biggest decrease in weekly box office gross this past week was seen by Wicked, which brought in $1,489,079, representing a decrease of $191,770. The next biggest decline was seen by Les Miserables with a decrease of $125,605, followed by Matilda with a decrease of $121,364. Furthermore, declines were seen by Cinderella, The Phantom of the Opera, Kinky Boots, Pippin, Aladdin, The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Chicago, If/Then, Cabaret, Jersey Boys, and Once – all of which are long-running musicals. This goes to show that as the fall season is truly getting underway, with the crux of new shows opening in surroundin weeks, the ticketbuying market is steering towards the new shows, many of which are plays. In addition to the immense increase seen by A Delicate Balance, other plays with increased sales this week include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Disgraced, and It’s Only a Play.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending October 26, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Analysis w/e 10/26/14

Show Name GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A DELICATE BALANCE $884,596 6,416 100.00% $137.87
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $880,770 7,165 98.75% $122.93
ALADDIN $1,383,638 13,608 98.72% $101.68
BEAUTIFUL $1,316,237 8,271 100.77% $159.14
CABARET $685,293 5,926 82.95% $115.64
CHICAGO $538,587 6,695 77.49% $80.45
CINDERELLA $527,426 7,146 51.01% $73.81
DISGRACED $362,147 5,990 81.56% $60.46
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $600,961 6,161 87.40% $97.54
IF/THEN $592,093 7,902 75.34% $74.93
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $1,376,686 8,683 101.53% $158.55
JERSEY BOYS $826,860 7,992 81.35% $103.46
KINKY BOOTS $1,262,058 10,698 93.91% $117.97
LES MISÉRABLES $665,387 7,500 66.54% $88.72
LOVE LETTERS $313,629 3,944 46.16% $79.52
MAMMA MIA! $693,670 8,190 87.80% $84.70
MATILDA $820,241 9,773 85.31% $83.93
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,112,900 11,462 95.07% $97.09
ON THE TOWN $837,948 11,987 79.96% $69.90
ONCE $417,186 5,151 60.80% $80.99
PIPPIN $478,031 5,914 74.67% $80.83
ROCK OF AGES $364,112 4,104 87.99% $88.72
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,610,255 8,754 102.65% $183.95
THE COUNTRY HOUSE $250,259 3,811 73.29% $65.67
THE LAST SHIP $546,914 9,312 88.05% $58.73
THE LION KING $1,851,134 13,496 99.24% $137.16
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $830,932 9,863 76.81% $84.25
THE REAL THING $446,621 5,783 97.69% $77.23
THIS IS OUR YOUTH $367,824 4,996 58.86% $73.62
WICKED $1,489,079 13,258 91.61% $112.32
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU $653,710 7,107 82.79% $91.98
Totals: $25,858,522 255,078 83.89% $98.51

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

“A Delicate Balance” Begins Previews on Broadway

Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Drama

a delicate balanceOn October 20, 2014, A Delicate Balance began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. Written by Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Seascape, The Goat or Who is Sylvia?), A Delicate Balance first premiered on Broadway in 1966, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama the following year. This is the play’s third revival; the second took place in 1996. This production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park), who has built her reputation as the preeminent interpreter of the works of Edward Albee. This is her second time producing one of his works on Broadway, but she also directed many Off-Broadway and regional productions of his work, including Peter and Jerry at Second Stage Theatre in 2007, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? at Houston’s Alley Theatre in 2003, a previous production of A Delicate Balance in 2009 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and Occupant at the Signature Theatre in 2008. Edward Albee’s work is frequently performed at the Off-Broadway Signature Theatre, as he is one of the five playwrights honored by being selected in their Residency Five program, through which he will have five productions of his plays over five years.

A Cast Full of Stars

The cast of this Broadway revival of A Delicate Balance includes Glenn Close as Agnes, John Lithgow as her husband Harry, Bob a delicate balance marqueeBalaban and Clare Higgins as their friends Harry and Edna, Lindsay Duncan as Agnes’ alcoholic sister Claire, and Martha Plimpton as Agnes and Tobias’ daughter Julia. Glenn Close is best known for her roles in such films as The Big Chill, 101 Dalmatians, Air Force One, and Dangerous Liaisons, but she has appeared on Broadway several times before in shows such as The Play What I Wrote (2003), Sunset Boulevard (1997), and Death and the Maiden (1992). Similarly, John Lithgow is known for his screen performances including the television show 3rd Rock from the Sun and movies such as Shrek and Rise of Planet of the Apes, but his Broadway credits are also numerous including The Columnist (2012), All My Sons (2008), and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005). In fact, all of these actors have been on Broadway before, and some of them many times. This is an example of a show that may be selling its tickets based on the fame of its cast, but the cast is not made up of movie stars trying their hand at Broadway; rather they are tried and true stage performers as much as they are movie stars.

A Brilliant and Surreal Play

The play opens in the home of Agnes and Tobias, a middle age couple who live with Agnes’ alcoholic sister Claire. Their adult daughter Julia has come home after a failed marriage – not her first. Meanwhile, their friends Harry and Edna come over in a state of terror; without explanation, they can no longer bear to live at their own home, and feel inclined to regress back to the womb. They are invited to stay as long as they like as houseguests, which Julia truly resents. Furthermore, Claire may be alcoholic, but at times she seems to have her head on straighter than do any of the others; her insights are often valuable contributions to the story’s progress. In general, Agnes and Tobias fret about the possibility of losing their minds. They drink and discuss their lives, and there is a continual sense of doom approaching – or alternatively, nothing happening at all, which is almost as bad. The play is written with a strong sense of realism, and yet there are surreal moments that creep up completely unexpected. As such, it succeeds in being a chilling and powerful drama that accessibly opens up introspection about the meaning of life.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 10/19/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A Record-Breaking Week for “It’s Only a Play”

In a week where the majority of Broadway shows had a decreased gross from the week before, It’s Only a Play is on the up and up. This revival of a Terrence McNally play directed by Jack O’Brien is chock full of stars, including Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullaly, F. Murray Abraham, Rupert Grint, and Stockard Channing. In that light, this show is a paradigm example of movie stars selling tickets, because those tickets are selling at a phenomenal rate. In the week ending October 19, 2014, It’s Only a Play brought in $1,375,481, which is an increase of $1,173,897 from the week before. That represents 104.34% of its gross potential, with an average ticket price of $159.02 and a top ticket price of $225.00. Furthermore, that gross is a weekly record for the show, which began performances on August 28, 2014 and officially opened on October 9, 2014 to mixed reviews. Prior to this past week, the highest weekly gross for It’s Only a Play came in for the week ending September 21, 2014 at $1,277,059. The entire run for the play is supposedly close to sold out, and the show is scheduled to continue until January 4, 2015.

As the Season Progresses, a Move Away from the Summer Blockbusters

This past week demonstrated that as the weather is getting colder, there are fewer tourists flooding New York, and specifically buying tickets to the top summer musicals. In the week ending October 19, 2014, Aladdin saw a gross decrease of $176,405, The Lion King went down by $155,070, Matilda decreased by $151,064, Wicked went down by $125,326, Hedwig and the Angry Inch went down by $118,386, and Cinderella decreased by $117,091. In fact, the entire Broadway industry saw a decrease of $1,072,660. There were some shows that experienced increases in gross, such as It’s Only a Play with a remarkable increase of $201,584, On the Town with a post-opening increase of $87,877, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time with an increase of $78,309. These are all newer fare on the Great White Way, which demonstrates an increased interest in the buying practices of local New Yorkers. These people are more aware of the recent changes in Broadway offerings, rather than continually purchasing tickets to long-running shows.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending October 19, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Analysis w/e 10-19-2014

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $920,334 7,319 100.87% $125.75
ALADDIN $1,438,023 13,750 99.75% $104.58
BEAUTIFUL $1,308,749 8,271 100.77% $158.23
CABARET $719,254 6,208 86.90% $115.86
CHICAGO $574,653 7,071 81.84% $81.27
CINDERELLA $643,770 8,384 59.85% $76.79
DISGRACED $352,737 6,002 81.73% $58.77
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $544,166 5,552 91.89% $98.01
IF/THEN $627,377 7,788 74.26% $80.56
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $1,375,481 8,650 101.15% $159.02
JERSEY BOYS $860,751 8,208 83.55% $104.87
KINKY BOOTS $1,363,976 11,024 96.77% $123.73
LES MISÉRABLES $790,993 8,821 78.26% $89.67
LOVE LETTERS $319,810 4,374 51.19% $73.12
MAMMA MIA! $678,393 8,115 87.00% $83.60
MATILDA $941,606 10,815 94.40% $87.06
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,074,895 10,768 89.32% $99.82
ON THE TOWN $696,571 13,079 87.24% $53.26
ONCE $448,800 5,162 60.93% $86.94
PIPPIN $536,740 6,355 80.24% $84.46
ROCK OF AGES $369,767 4,204 90.14% $87.96
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,651,464 8,752 102.63% $188.70
THE COUNTRY HOUSE $253,441 3,933 75.63% $64.44
THE LAST SHIP $575,155 7,899 74.69% $72.81
THE LION KING $1,895,200 13,414 98.63% $141.29
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $935,841 10,843 84.45% $86.31
THE REAL THING $475,917 5,620 94.93% $84.68
THIS IS OUR YOUTH $409,597 5,796 68.28% $70.67
WICKED $1,680,849 14,440 99.78% $116.40
YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU $680,921 7,506 87.44% $90.72
Totals: $25,993,464 256,002 85.85% $98.61

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

“It’s Only a Play” Opens on Broadway

Ticket Sales Anticipate Reviews

it's only a playOn October 9, 2014, It’s Only a Play opened at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, after having played 48 preview performances since the first on August 28, 2014. Generally, an opening night is vital for a show to gain traction after reviews hit the press, but in this case, the reviews were all but unnecessary. The show is already almost completely sold out until the end of its run, currently scheduled for January 4, 2015. In every single week that the show has been running, it has brought in over 100% of its gross box office potential, due to premium ticket sales on top of outstanding regular priced sales. Discounts are not part of the equation in this case. In the first partial 5-performance week ending August 31, 2014, the show earned 112.45% of its gross potential. In the full 8-performance weeks following, the show has unfailingly passed the million dollar mark on each occasion. In order, from the week ending September 7, 2014 until the most recently reported week ending October 12, 2014, the weekly grosses were: $1,163,626, $1,230,603, $1,277,059, $1,261,025, $1,248,660, and $1,173,896. The reason for this outstanding box office performance can be summarized in two words: star power.

Chock Full of Stars

With regards to attracting ticketbuyers, the most important names associated with this production are its actors. First of all, the it's only a play castproduction reunites Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick who made Broadway history with their performances in 2001’s The Producers. Beyond the combination of this power duo, each has individually earned a remarkable series of accolades, including two Tony Awards a piece: Lane earned the Best Actor honor for The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Broderick earned the same for Brighton Beach Memoirs and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They are joined by Stockard Channing, who came to fame with the film Grease, and earned a Tony Award for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. In addition, F. Murray Abraham won an Academy Award for 1985’s Amadeus and is a seasoned veteran of stage and screen. Furthermore, the cast includes Rupert Grint making his Broadway debut, and yet he may hold the honor of having been seen by the most eyeballs due to his starring as Ron in the Harry Potter franchise. On top of the stellar cast, rounded out by Megan Mullaly and Micah Stock, the playwright Terrence McNally has had a remarkable 21 productions of his plays on Broadway, and the director Jack O’Brien has helmed at least 26 shows on Broadway (winning three Tony Awards with an additional seven nominations), also serving as the artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 1981 to 2007.

Critical Appreciation, with Some Reservation

In general, the reviews are positive though some are mixed. In particular, Ben Brantley of The New York Times saw through the starry exterior and reviewed the play on its merits. He remarked how McNally revised the script to be more up-to-date. As the play, originally written in 1982, has some antiquated references, newer stars such as James Franco, Rosie O’Donnell, and Denzel Washington were swapped in for their written predecessors. Most notably, the respected theatre critic Frank Rich was swapped out for none other than Brantley himself. He responded to this fact with sufficient grace and only mild resentment, explaining that the entire premise of the play was to throw mud at famous names, whether those of critics or actors. In any case, he was fully aware that his review would not be affecting ticket sales, which are already more victorious than any written assessment of the play’s merits could expect to be.

“On the Town” Opens on Broadway

New York, New York, It’s a Helluva Town

on the town posterOn September 20, 2014, On the Town began previews at the Lyric Theatre, previously known as the Foxwoods. On October 16, 2014, the show opened after 24 preview performances. The reviews are in, and critics are loving it! This is encouraging given that the Lyric Theatre is a notoriously difficult theatre in which to sell tickets profitably. The most recent overambitious financial catastrophe there was Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark (when the theatre was called the Foxwoods), which had a $70 million capitalization and garnered bad press due to injuries from flying spectacles and subsequent lawsuits. Although that show sold many tickets, many tourists compelled rather than deterred by the press, it was still unable to recoup anywhere near its capitalization, and closed at a loss. The next show slated for the Lyric was King Kong – a musical complete with a giant spectacular gorilla. However, when that show got postponed, On the Town was brought in to fill the slot. This was not looking promising, as On the Town is a revival of a semi-dated, fun-loving classic Broadway musical – not exactly groundbreaking fare. And though ticket sales to date have not been stupendous, these positive reviews are certainly heartening.

The Reviews Are InOn the town cast

Ben Brantley of The New York Times fell in love with On the Town. He compared it to candy-colored heaven, and congratulated it on being a show that dealt with sex and yet was appropriate for the whole family. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News praised the performers, the choreography, and the classic score, while deeming it a love song to the city. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press found the show lively and uplifting, calling it the perfect way to clear the bad energy of the doomed Spiderman. Dave Quinn of NBC New York lauded the musical for its ability to convert even the most jaded New Yorkers to understand a new appreciation for the city, seen through the eyes of those who are arriving there for the very first time. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter fell immediately for the 28-piece orchestra’s rendition of the National Anthem, and his attention was retained throughout the entire show. He was relieved that this revival succeeded in bringing back the brilliance of the original 1944 production, when the last two revival attempts (in 1971 and 1988) both failed.

Financial Data

The numbers have not yet been affected by these positive reviews, but the show is going to need a boost in order to stay afloat. In each of the four weeks of previews, the show has barely made 40% of its gross potential. In the last reported data – the week ending October 12, 2014 – the show brought in $608,694 over the course of 7 performances, which only represents 39.05% of its gross potential. Of course, the show has a relatively high gross potential due to the gigantic size of the theatre; with 14,992 seats to fill over the course of a normal week of 8 performances, On the Town is potentially able to bring in as much as $1,775,166 each week, not taking into account premium ticket sales. At that rate, it would be competing with the most successful shows on Broadway such as Wicked and The Lion King. However, though these positive reviews may persuade some ticketbuyers to check out the show, unfortunately critics do not hold as much sway as they once did. Whereas some niche readers may appreciate the observation that this production succeeded where the past two revivals failed, none of this will overcome the bias of someone who believes off the bat that this is a tired, old show compared to some of the newer, more exciting options on Broadway.