Super Bowl XLVIII Negatively Impacts Broadway Ticket Sales, Despite Positive Expectations

superbowl 48 trophyOn Sunday, February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos, 43-8, winning the National Football League championship at the Super Bowl XLVIII. The game was held just over the Hudson River from New York City at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

As it turns out, the Broncos were not the only ones who could have used a better defense.  Though Broadway shows across the board adjusted performance schedules and made promotional efforts to engage the influx of sports fans flocking to the city, theatre ticket sales were at a disappointing low, with weekly box office grosses dropping $2.4 million and with 15,000 fewer tickets sold compared to the previous 7-day period.

Total ticket sales were only $16,714,694 in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, though they reached $19,122,428 in the preceding week.  The only shows to reach full audience capacity were The Book of Mormon and the double-bill Mark Rylance-led Shakespeare productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III.  Even long-running hits such as The Lion King saw a big drop in sales, decreasing 10 percent since the week before.  Although the total weekly gross for all productions was comparable to the total gross in Super Bowl week last year, there are presently four more shows running than this time last year.

In recent history, Broadway producers have seen non-weather related ticket sales slumps, the most recent during the Republican National Convention in 2004, when ticket sales dropped 22%. This time the slump was so severe, that the New York City Mayor may rethink efforts to bring other events to the area, like the Olympics, the World Cup or even the Stanley Cup. It may increase hotel receipts, but do little for the rest of the NYC economy.

superbowl-tobaggan-run

In honor of the football event, New York City and the Super Bowl Host Committee joined forces to carry out an unprecedented shutdown of 13 blocks in Midtown Manhattan.  As a result, traffic was restricted in the heart of Times Square on Broadway between 34th Street and 47th Street for the four days leading up to the game.  The officially dubbed “Super Bowl Boulevard” hosted a slew of events ranging from a toboggan run to an outdoor stage featuring performances by, among others, the Broadway casts of Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys.  Other shows – including Rocky, Pippin, Motown, Chicago, Mamma Mia! and Newsies – gave special performances in nearby Bryant Park.  Still, it appears the excitement of the game overpowered the convenience of the theatre district welcoming the flood of visitors with open arms. The “Super Bowl Boulevard” festivities felt crushed in the small space on Broadway, especially given that the Javits Center, on the West Side of Manhattan was the original location earmarked , but another event grabbed the booking.

Broadway producers, anticipating the conflict, made significant efforts to take advantage of the tourist traffic.  Broadway Week, an annual 2-for-1 ticket promotion, happened to coincide with the shutdowns, and every running production (with the exception of the confident hit The Book of Mormon) participated in the discount program – most likely aiming to attract Super Bowl theatregoers.  Furthermore, the Broadway League (calling themselves “the theatrical equivalent of the NFL”) released a press statement welcoming Super Bowl XLVIII to Times Square, providing a user-friendly map for pedestrians to navigate their way to the theatres, and announcing alternate curtain times to accommodate football aficionados.

Rock of Ages

One show, Rock of Ages, made multiple efforts to attract football fans.  The 1980s rock jukebox musical has traditionally done very well with the adult male demographic, which is unusual for Broadway musicals.  It therefore makes sense that they would take this opportunity to gain added exposure among sports fans.  In addition to performing a half hour set onstage at Super Bowl Boulevard on Thursday afternoon prior to the game, the cast made the journey to MetLife Stadium on game day, performing two sets outside the gates prior to kickoff.  In an even greater feat, the producers convinced three NFL stars to join the cast onstage at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre, playing bartenders in four brief scenes for a temporary stint.  However, Rock of Ages was no exception in terms of poor box office performance; their gross was $60,000 less than the previous week.

Overall, despite positive expectations that the event might help rally the crowds to Broadway, the performance week was disappointingly low.  Presumably, the grosses might have been even worse had it not been for the Broadway League’s efforts to woo the scant few Super Bowl fans that actually did go to a show.  It is likely that the Super Bowl fans also booked all the hotel rooms in New York City, which meant that the normal tourists didn’t have anywhere to stay. Super Bowl Boulevard also served to distract the remaining tourists from going to the theatre, merely adding to the multitude of entertainment options available in Times Square.  Still, some of these marketing efforts may prove fruitful in the long run, having possibly increased national awareness of the current Broadway slate.

Broadway Understudy Documentary Coming Soon to Theaters

The StandbysThe life of an understudy is unknown to most people, but soon that will change with the new documentary, The Standbys. The film about Broadway understudies will be released in movie theaters starting February 21.

The Standbys follows three Broadway actors: Ben Crawford (standby in Shrek the Musical and Big Fish); Merwin Foard (standby for Gomez in The Addams Family); and Alena Watters (standby for Anita in the West Side Story revival).

In addition to following those three understudies “through their ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, onstage performances and private lives,” The Standbys also includes interviews with a number of Broadway luminaries, such as David Hyde Pierce, Zachary Quinto, Bebe Neuwirth, Sutton Foster, Brian d’Arcy James, Katie Finneran, and Cheyenne Jackson.

To learn more, visit www.TheStandbys.com.

Peter Pan Musical To Be Aired Live on TV

Peter PanIn the wake of the massive ratings success of NBC’s live production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood, the network has tapped producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan to replicate their success with another live musical event later this year.

The next event will be the live broadcast of a production of the musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, which has lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Jule Styne and Moose Charlap. Originally produced on Broadway in 1954 with Mary Martin playing Peter Pan, this version features well-known songs like “I Won’t Grow Up” and “I’m Flying”.

“We hope to create the joy that has made this musical so beloved,” stated Meron and Zadon. “We would like a whole new generation to experience Peter Pan and for families across the country to share the magic.”

Casting has not yet been announced for NBC’s live airing of Peter Pan, but the broadcast is scheduled to air on December 4, 2014.

King Kong to Take the Foxwoods Following Spider-Man’s Closure

King KongIt seems that the Foxwoods Theatre on 42nd Street can’t get enough of multi-millionaire-dollar mega-musicals. After it was announced that the infamous spectacle Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark would be closing (the superhero musical shuttered on January 4), it became known that another well-known figure — King Kong — wanted to move in.

The new musical King Kong, which had its premiere in Melbourne, Australia, will come to Broadway late this year, with an opening scheduled for December 12, 2014. Written by Craig Lucas and Marius de Vries, King Kong brings the story of a gigantic silverback who gets loose in the city to the Broadway stage.

And if Spider-man, with its high-flying theatrics, seemed like a stage spectacle, King Kong is perhaps even more epic. The show features a cast of 49, a 76-person crew, and one enormous animatronic gorilla. The Foxwoods Theatre is one of the few Broadway theaters that is actually large enough to take on this colossal production.

A Night with Janis Joplin Closes on Broadway

A Night with Janis JoplinThe bluesy, rockin’ musical revue A Night with Janis Joplin, starring Mary Bridget Davies in the title role, concludes its run at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway today. However, don’t expect the bio-musical to be gone for long — there are already plans to move it to another theater.

“We are tremendously proud of this show, and excited about the many people who want to see A Night with Janis Joplin in New York. We are finalizing a wonderful option to move to another venue in New York City,” stated producers Michael Cohl, Todd Gershwin, and Daniel Chilewich. “A Night with Janis Joplin receives four standing ovations nightly and continues to play to captivated crowds on Broadway. We know that the music and the story of Janis Joplin deserve to live on.”

Both directed and written by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin opened on Broadway on October 10.

Broadway Musical Taboo Stages Reunion Concert

TabooThe beloved but relatively short-lived Broadway pop musical Taboo, which played the Great White Way in 2003, is holding a 10th Anniversary reunion concert tonight and tomorrow at the club 54 Below. There will be two performances of the reunion concert on February 7 at 8pm and 11pm and again on February 8 at 8pm and 11pm.

Produced by Rosie O’Donnell, Taboo was the biographical tale of Boy George and the ’80s London club scene, and even co-starred Boy George himself in the role of Leigh Bowery. The reunion show will feature several original cast members from the Broadway production of Taboo, including Jeffrey Carlson, Cary Shields, Liz McCartney, and Sarah Uriarte Berry.

John McDaniel, Taboo’s original music director on Broadway, will also provide music direction for the concert. Proceeds from the event will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  Click here for more information.

Spring Training Comes Early for the Yankees on Broadway

Bronx BombersIt’s early yet for baseball season, but fans of America’s great past time can get a little taste of the game on the Broadway stage over at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where the new play Bronx Bombers opens tonight. Written and directed by Eric Simonson, the play focuses on one of the sport’s most famed franchises, the New York Yankees.

Bronx Bombers, which was first seen Off-Broadway at Primary Stages last year, takes audiences on a trip through Yankees history by looking at the team through the eyes of one of its icons, Yogi Berra.  Actor Peter Scolari plays Yogi opposite his real-life wife Tracy Shayne as Yogi’s wife Carmen.  Christopher Jackson, Keith Nobbs, Bill Dawes, Henry Coffey, Francois Battiste, John Wernke, and C.J. Wilson co-star.

Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and Derek Jeter are among the New York Yankees legends who are represented onstage in Bronx Bombers as the show examines both the triumphs and the troubles that the team encounters over the years.  For fans who can’t wait for baseball season to start, this may be the ideal Broadway show to tide them over until spring training.

Film Star Bradley Cooper Will Be Elephant Man on Broadway

Bradley CooperSince last appearing on Broadway in the 2006 production of the Richard Greenberg play Three Days of Rain, Bradley Cooper has become a major movie star, gaining notoriety in The Hangover franchise and most recently starring in Oscar bait films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

Soon Cooper will come back to Broadway, playing John Merrick in the 1979 drama The Elephant Man, penned by Bernard Pomerance. (The play was most recently revived on Broadway in a 2002 production featuring Billy Crudup.) He will be joined by co-stars Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson.

Bradley Cooper previously starred in The Elephant Man in 2012 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The same director, Scott Ellis, will also helm this Broadway production.

It is customary for the stage production of The Elephant Man to be performed without the aid of prosthetic makeup, instead the production will rely on the actors ability to simulate the characters severe disabilities. This show has Best Play Tony written all over it.

“The Elephant Man” story was inspired by the life of John Merrick, a man that suffered from a type of neurofibromatosis, a deforming nerve tissue disorder that produces skin and bone abnormalities. Much interest in the character has been seen following the David Lynch movie from 1980 that starred Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller in which a Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak.

NBC’s The Tonight Show Returns To New York With Jimmy Fallon At The Helm

Jimmy Fallon Brings the Tnight Show To New York City

Known for his madcap skits on SNL with Justin Timberlake and his youthful stand-up style, Jimmy Fallon has been tasked with bringing The Tonight Show back to New York City after a 50 year hiatus. The show has lived for over five decades in Los Angeles, with Jay Leno most recently at the helm.

It all started with the The Tonight Show with Steve Allen in New York back in 1954. Jack Paar took the show over a few years later and and then Johnny Carson moved the show from New York to Hollywood in 1962. It hasn’t been back to New York City since. Jay Leno and David Letterman had their famed “Late Night Wars” where they fought over the show (Johnny Carson wanted to give it to Letterman, but NBC execs decided otherwise) and now Jay Leno ends his tenure with his two-decade run on The Tonight Show February 6, 2014 with his final guests Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks. Just a few days later on February 17, Jimmy Fallon begins his version of The Tonight Show at midnight. (It’s been placed after NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics for that week, returning to a regular time slot of 11pm the following week).

Jimmy Fallon is lucky enough to have a great lead-in with the Olympics coverage and is anticipated to include some wonderful guests including Sean Connery, Ringo Starr, Madonna, Aaron Paul, and George Clooney. (It’s hoped that NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is better than it has been over the last few years, because this apparent benefit of lead-in ratings could well become a negative if NBC screws it up again. For example, showing events that took place over 24 hours ago, inexplicably cutting away from the highly anticipated Opening Ceremonies to a Ryan Seacrest interview instead, and so on and so forth.)

the tonight show starring Jimmy FallonAs for the void that that Jimmy Fallon leaves at his show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers takes Jimmy’s old slot and so begins yet another round of late show musical chairs. The very first time NBC executives tried to replace Leno was back in June 2009, and it was a complete disaster. They replaced Leno with Conan O’Brien – but with Conan’s lack of mainstream appeal and the NBC executives lack of stomach… (were these really the same  NBC executives that were responsible for green-lighting the sleeper-hit Seinfeld? they must have just gotten lucky) NBC gave it an early bath and landed Conan with a reported $12 Million settlement deal and his own a show on TBS a year later when his NBC non-compete contract expired.

This time around, NBC executives think they can do a better job and Jimmy Fallon gets a try at the brass ring. No word yet on what the backup plan is this time if Fallon fails to garner market share; perhaps Jay Leno is still under contract if Jimmy’s viewer numbers don’t pan out?

Tickets to The Tonight Show with host Jimmy Fallon, which is being shot at the NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, are available at the NBC ticket desk by calling (212) 664-3056. Generally, tickets are booked about 4-6 weeks in advance from the actual taping. Please call Monday-Friday (9am-5pm ET) for availability. Standby tickets are always fair game for these kinds of shows in New York City, but anticipate higher than normal demand at the start of the run, giving way to a reasonable ticket demand as the show settles in.

Daniel Radcliffe Coming Back to Broadway

The Cripple of InishmaanHarry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will return to Broadway later this season when the recent West End production of The Cripple of Inishmaan comes to the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April. The production will start previews on April 12 with an expected April 20 opening.

Written by Martin McDonagh (who has been represented on Broadway with plays such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman), The Cripple of Inishmaan has been performed Off-Broadway twice. This will be the play’s first time on Broadway.

Though he continues to be best known for the title role in the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe is already a Broadway veteran, having starred in revivals of the drama Equus and the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.