Broadway Theatre Owners Raise Facility Fee Surcharge To $2.00 on Broadway Tickets

Broadway show producers often increase ticket prices to their shows to match growing demand. It now appears that theater owners want to get in on the action.

Many Broadway theaters have just increased their facility fee charges to $2.00, making that the new standard amount for facility fees on Broadway in addition to the base ticket price, the convenience charge, and the per-order handling fee.

The facility fee (sometimes called the theater restoration fee, or the 3rd surcharge) is the only surcharge that you have to pay even if buying your tickets directly at the Broadway theater box office — unlike other Broadway ticket surcharges, this one comes from the theater itself, not the ticket agent.

In a way, it sounds like a classy sort of fee. After all, everyone wants those beautiful Broadway theaters to continue looking nice, and $2.00 doesn’t sound like that much when you just threw down $155 for a ticket. But when you really consider it, that fee is rather odd. You don’t pay any other industry an extra fee to simply maintain their place of business, do you? People wouldn’t normally pay a facility fee when they dine at a restaurant or shop at a store. If the Broadway theaters need money for upkeep, you would anticipate that they would factor this into the rent that they charge their tenants, the Broadway shows themselves.

The switch that many theaters made over the years from calling the fee a ‘restoration fee’ to calling it a ‘facility fee’ is also telling, since the truth is that none of them are actually guaranteeing that the money is going directly to theater restoration projects. The fact is, that little charge can add up to tens of millions of dollars annually for Broadway theater owners, making it an excellent source of extra revenue.  It is unclear why they don’t just charge the producers of the show more rent, who will in turn increase the prices of tickets to their show.

In an article that Cara Joy David wrote for the New York Times in 2007 on ticket fees and surcharges, veteran Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg was quoted as saying of the fees, “I think all of these things cumulatively are insane … Someone must have men in the back room making up names, euphemisms for profit.”

The facility fees have not always been uniform, and different theaters have charged different amounts over the years. Ten years ago, most facility fees were around $1.00 or $1.25, and $1.50 was typical for a very long time. But now $2.00 has emerged as the most common amount for the facility fee.  (A few exceptions exist, such as Disney’s New Amsterdam Theater and Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, which have no facility fee at all; and the Gershwin Theatre, home of Wicked, which charges $1.25.)  Somehow the American theater managed to thrive for decades before fees were introduced in the ’90s, so these charges really do seem unnecessary.

Part of the reason the facility fee doesn’t get that much attention from Broadway ticket buyers is because they are already used to paying much higher surcharges directly to Ticketmaster and Telecharge. The popularity of phone ordering (much easier than traveling down to the box office in person, especially for tourists and out-of-towners) and the advent of online ordering provided an excuse for the “convenience charge,” which usually breaks down into two types of fees: the per-order handling fee (currently $2.75 on Telecharge, after recently being raised from $2.50) and the per-ticket service charge ($7.50 on Telecharge). There also may be additional charges depending on what delivery method you choose.

Broadway ticket buyers can continue to avoid the larger surcharges by making the trip to the Broadway theater district and buying their tickets directly at the box office, rather than dealing with the middle man that is Ticketmaster and Telecharge. But no matter how you purchase your Broadway tickets, that $2.00 facility fee will still be going from your pocket to the theater owners, at least hold the door open for me.

Seating Options Abound For Book of Mormon Tickets – But A Scant Few Tickets Are Actually Available

More than a year after it won its Tony Award for Best Musical, The Book of Mormon remains Broadway’s monster hit, completely selling out performances several months in advance. The recent departure of original cast members Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells (soon to appear on TV shows 1600 Penn and The New Normal, respectively) hasn’t made a dent in sales either, since The Book of Mormon is the rare Broadway musical where members of the behind-the-scenes creative team (i.e. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone) are more famous than the people onstage.

Needless to say, The Book of Mormon tickets continue to be challenging to purchase. If you want The Book of Mormon tickets, you better be prepared to make your theater-going plans way in advance (are you free in the summer of 2013 by any chance?). Making matters more complicated is that The Book of Mormon‘s official ticket seller, Telecharge, is now utilizing a surprisingly complicated seating structure. When searching for The Book of Mormon tickets on Telecharge.com, you have the option to search by section (see image on the left). In the past, these drop-down menus might show 6-8 sections to choose from, but now The Book of Mormon is an example of a Broadway show that offers roughly two dozen options.

While this lengthy seating breakdown creates the illusion of choice, the reality is that the pricing options for The Book of Mormon tickets are extremely limited. The available regular ticket prices for The Book of Mormon are $69 rear mezzanine, partial view for $145-$165, and everything else in the $155-$175 ticket range. On that entire list of seating choices, only the Mezzanine Rows J-L gets you the $69 tickets. (By the way, the premium seats on that list will run you $250-$477 each.) Another popular Broadway musical, Jersey Boys, has a similar set-up, with numerous seating choices but limited price points. Meanwhile, a show like End of the Rainbow, which is struggling to fill seats, shows far fewer seating choices, but a slightly wider variety of pricing options.

One possible reason for the increasingly detailed seat offerings for popular Broadway shows is customer demand. When searching for The Book of Mormon tickets on Telecharge, you can just leave it on the default ‘Best Available’ setting to be given whatever Telecharge has determined are the best seats. But with Broadway ticket prices at all-time highs (especially for hit musicals like The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys), buyers feel that if they are paying $155 for a ticket, they should at least be able to choose what row they want to sit in. The incredibly high demand for tickets, though, gives The Book of Mormon producers little reason to charge anything less than an arm and a leg — except for throwing ticket buyers a little bone by offering a few rear mezzanine rows at $69 (which of course sell out very quickly).

The complex seating breakdown for The Book of Mormon tickets also highlights the problem with Telecharge’s online ticketing system. Unlike Ticketmaster, which now lets you easily view and select the precise seats that you want from a seating chart, Telecharge leaves ticket buyers flailing in the dark, attempting to get the system to pull up desirable seats. Having a detailed list of seat row ranges at least allows buyers to choose their preferred seating sections with greater accuracy. Then again, with a sell-out show like The Book of Mormon, customers often find that there isn’t anything available in their selected row anyway. The truth of the matter is that, for big Broadway hits, you often have to settle for whatever is available — or else pay the premium ticket prices.

New Off-Broadway Theater Opening Right in Times Square

Silence! the Musical, the parody of The Silence of the Lambs that has become an Off-Off-Broadway hit downtown, has announced that it will be moving up to the theater district and into a newly renovated 199-seat theater space. Located at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue (across from scenic Port Authority), the Elektra Theatre boasts “plush stadium seats and the best sight lines of any theatre in New York City,” according to a press release.

Being on the highly-trafficked West 42nd Street and just a stone’s throw from the heart of Times Square could make the Elektra Theatre a prime spot for Off-Broadway shows since it is no more of a hike for tourists than the average Broadway theater. Admittedly that particular corner has a somewhat seedy vibe, but that might give it just the right edgy feel for a cult hit like Silence! That block houses other performance spaces (used for comedy shows, specialty shows, etc.), but has seldom been used for more traditional theatrical performances, so it will be interesting to see whether or not the Elektra can successfully establish itself as a legitimate theater.

Silence! the Musical will begin performances at the Elektra Theatre (673 Eighth Avenue) on Wednesday, July 18. Visit www.silencethemusical.com to find out more about the show.

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs on Broadway

The 14th annual Broadway Barks! adoption event hits the Great White Way this coming Saturday, July 14. Held in Shubert Alley (located between 44th and 45th streets, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Broadway Barks! is a celebrity-studded event that benefits New York City’s animal shelters and adoption agencies.

As usual, animal lover and Broadway legend Bernadette Peters will be hosting Broadway Barks! with fellow animal lover and TV legend Mary Tyler Moore. Along with a slew of other celebrities, they will be raising awareness, auctioning off autographed memorabilia, and helping adorable shelter animals find permanent homes.

The long list of famous folks who will be participating in Broadway Barks! this year includes such Broadway performers as Angela Lansbury, Linda Lavin, Joel Grey, Bebe Neuwirth, Jeremy Jordan, Audra McDonald, Carol Kane, and Steve Kazee.

The event starts at 3:30pm, with the celebrity presentations of animal shelter pets taking place from 5pm to 6:30pm. Click here to find out more info about Broadway Barks!

New Set of Stars Join Broadway’s Best Man

A new slate of stars step up to take the place of departing cast members in the Broadway production of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man tonight. Cybill Shepherd (Moonlighting) is replacing Candice Bergen as a politician’s long-suffering wife, John Stamos (Full House) is succeeding Eric McCormack as a slick rival politician, and Kristin Davis (Sex and the City) is taking over Kerry Butler’s role as his wife.

Original cast members James Earl Jones (giving The Best Man‘s most enjoyable performance as a former President of the United States), John Larroquette, Jefferson Mays, and Angela Lansbury are still with the production, though Lansbury is scheduled to depart on July 24 when Elizabeth Ashley (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) will take over her role.

Though The Best Man didn’t win any Tony Awards last month–it was nominated for Best Revival of a Play and James Earl Jones received a Best Actor nod–the production has done quite well, nearly selling out during its first weeks and going on to enjoy an average of 80% capacity since then.  Written in 1960, its story of presidential politics still feels pretty timely during this election year.  The play was originally scheduled for a limited run ending on July 8, but extended to September 9 due to popular demand (which was undoubtedly excited by its starry cast).

A Boxer Off-Broadway

Possibly inspired by Mike Tyson’s entry onto Broadway, boxer Jake LaMotta will be taking the New York stage this month in Lady and the Champ.  The Off-Broadway production scheduled to play from July 19 to July 29 will star both LaMotta and Denise Baker, his seventh wife.  Carl Shimkin and Patrick Jude will also be featured in the cast.

A former middleweight champ, Jake LaMotta’s fame transcended the boxing world when Robert DeNiro played him in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 classic film Raging Bull.  Now at the age of 90, LaMotta shares his life story through a theatrical evening of stories, song, and video.  Written by Baker and Bonnie Lee Sanders, Lady and the Champ details LaMotta’s career as a boxer, as well as his later years as a bar owner and doing stand-up.  He also talks about his many marriages, leading up to “lucky #7,” his current wife and co-star Denise Baker.

Lady and the Champ starring Jake LaMotta will play at the Richmond Shepard Theatre, located at 301 E. 26th Street.

New Hot Spot for Broadway Talent: 54 Below

It hasn’t been open long, but 54 Below has already become a second home to Broadway stars.  You could call it a nightclub, a supper club, a cabaret, or even “Broadway’s living room” (to borrow the venue’s own phrase), but whatever you call it, 54 Below is attracting top names from the New York theater scene.  Ben Vereen (Jesus Christ Superstar), Victor Garber (Sweeney Todd), Faith Prince (Guys & Dolls), Norbert Leo Butz (Catch Me If You Can), Jackie Hoffman (The Addams Family), Andrea McArdle (Annie), Michael Arden (Big River), and Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins) are among the many respected Broadway performers who are performing there this summer.

Located at the uppermost part of the theater district, on West 54th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Ave.), 54 Below also offers fine dining in the form of small plates, usually featuring seasonal ingredients, and classic cocktails.  Needless to say, though, most people will be going there for the music and a chance to see favorite performers in a more casual setting.  The many 7 and 8pm show times conflict with Broadway show schedules, but there are also often 11pm sets for people who want to take in both a play and an evening at the cabaret.

The truth is that many promising cabaret venues have come and gone in New York City, so it’s hard to say which ones will survive.  But 54 Below has a better shot than most given its prime location.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales* w/e 7/1/2012

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers from the week ending July 1, 2012:

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE $349,304 5,237 56.05% $66.70
ANYTHING GOES $502,761 7,314 89.11% $68.74
CHICAGO $552,736 6,962 80.58% $79.39
CLYBOURNE PARK $394,874 5,647 74.22% $69.93
END OF THE RAINBOW $241,146 3,369 42.54% $71.58
EVITA $1,191,200 10,361 80.34% $114.97
GHOST $545,312 7,188 59.70% $75.86
GORE VIDAL’S THE BEST MAN $716,782 6,861 80.68% $104.47
HARVEY $629,617 8,146 101.42% $77.29
JERSEY BOYS $887,165 9,146 93.10% $97.00
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR $678,052 9,030 79.27% $75.09
MAMMA MIA! $750,421 9,485 79.15% $79.12
MARY POPPINS $929,166 11,889 82.70% $78.15
MEMPHIS $520,026 7,824 66.53% $66.47
NEWSIES $1,048,090 9,716 101.63% $107.87
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT $804,816 7,848 68.17% $102.55
ONCE $1,039,207 8,487 100.27% $122.45
ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS $639,890 6,371 81.68% $100.44
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER $687,525 8,047 95.80% $85.44
PORGY AND BESS $462,497 5,166 48.37% $89.53
ROCK OF AGES $498,819 4,612 98.89% $108.16
SISTER ACT $713,263 9,551 68.03% $74.68
SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK $1,608,683 14,171 91.78% $113.52
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,615,956 8,752 102.63% $184.64
THE COLUMNIST $226,882 4,119 79.21% $55.08
THE LION KING $1,944,704 13,417 100.01% $144.94
THE LYONS $243,525 4,508 52.22% $54.02
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $889,043 11,240 87.54% $79.10
WAR HORSE $532,791 5,561 65.03% $95.81
WICKED $2,033,004 14,075 97.26% $144.44
TOTAL $23,877,254 244,100 80.13% $92.91

*Broadway Grosses provided courtesy of The Broadway League.

Live Production of The Sound of Music to Air on NBC

Soon NBC will be alive with The Sound of Music, and it won’t just be an annual airing of the beloved 1965 film. The peacock network has announced plans to air a live broadcast of a new production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Smash producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will produce the television event, which will feature actors singing live. Casting is expected to begin right away. The air date has not been determined yet.

Zadan and Meron have a history of bringing favorite musicals to television, having produced TV movies of Annie, Gypsy, The Music Man, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. But, unlike those movies, The Sound of Music will be a live broadcast. Of course NBC is not new to live broadcasting, with shows like Saturday Night Live and even 30 Rock doing the occasional live show. Back in the 1950s, broadcasting musicals live was done frequently on network television, and NBC hopes to bring back that spirit of spontaneity.

Fans of the film The Sound of Music, which stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, may be surprised to discover that there are several notable differences between the movie and the original Broadway stage version, which is likely the version that NBC will be producing. The stage musical features the songs “How Can Love Survive” and “No Way to Stop It,” but does not include Maria’s song “I Have Confidence,” which was written specifically for the movie. In place of the film’s duet “Something Good,” the stage show has a song called “An Ordinary Couple”. Some of the other well-known movie songs are shifted to different scenes in the stage show.

Magic Mike Coming To Broadway?

It’s only just opened in movie theaters, but already there is talk of the new Steven Soderbergh film Magic Mike being turned into a Broadway show. In an interview with USA Today, Magic Mike‘s screenwriter and co-producer Reid Carlin said that there are already plans to transform the movie, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of exotic male dancers (based on star Channing Tatum’s real-life experiences as a male stripper), into a live show on Broadway.

“We are working on it as a Broadway show, which would be a different story,” explained Carlin, “more of a romp, more of a fun night out at a club with a story.”

Some theater wags are noting that Broadway has already had a male stripper musical — The Full Monty — and while that show had a respectable two-year run, it was overshadowed by that season’s mega-hit, The Producers, and ultimately failed to recoup its investment on Broadway.

But from Carlin’s explanation, it sounds possible that a Magic Mike Broadway show would focus more on the choreographed club acts than on a traditional plot.  Furthermore, unlike The Full Monty, which was about regular Joes who didn’t do their strip act until the very end, Magic Mike is about actual beefcake dancers, which would undoubtedly bring in the bachelorette parties in droves.