The 2014 Tony Nominations Are Announced

2014 tony awards

It is always a time of great anticipation.  The Tony Awards, the most prestigious awards ceremony for Broadway, mean a great deal to the fate of plays and musicals, often dictating tourist picks throughout the summer and certainly adding a measure of prestige for the award recipients.  This year, the Tony Awards ceremony will be held on June 8, 2014 at Radio City Music Hall.  The nominations were just announced.

The Nominations
Leading the list of shows with the highest number of nominations is the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which received 10 nominations.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch followed with a respectable 8, and four shows tied next with 7 nominations: After Midnight, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Twelfth Night, and The Glass Menagerie.  The Tony Nominating Committee adopted a new rule this winter, which allows each category to select up to five contenders, if deemed appropriate due to the votes being close enough in the final tally.  Despite this fact, several categories still have only four or three nominees, even when those supposed to be serious contenders were left out of the running.  For instance, the category of Best Musical includes only four nominees – After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – even while Bullets Over Broadway, If/Then, The Bridges of Madison County, and Rocky were all left out.

2014 tony awardsThe Snubs
You cannot make everyone happy all the time, but perhaps the most notable snub was Will Eno’s new play The Realistic Joneses, which did not receive any nominations.  Critics have hypothesized that this is because the nominating committee was turned off by the show’s unusual structure and provocative subject matter, while the plays that were selected were all more conventional, if significantly less moving or original.  These nominees for Best Play are Act One, All the Way, Casa Valentina, Mothers and Sons, and Outside Mullingar, most of which received moderate to mixed reviews.  The category for Best Revival of a Musical includes only three titles – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Les Misérables, and Violet – though the only other contender, Cabaret, was blatantly left off the list.  The four titles chosen for Best Revival of a Play are The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Glass Menagerie, A Raisin in the Sun, and the all-male production of Twelfth Night.

Other Surprises
Not appearing on the Tony nomination list includes Daniel Radcliffe, who did not receive a nomination for Best Actor for his role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, despite having received magnificent reviews.  This marks the third time he has starred on Broadway yet failed to be nominated for a Tony Award, it seems that he cannot shake his Harry Potter persona, albeit in the eyes of the Tony Award committee.  Other actors who were astonishingly left out of the running include Denzel Washington for A Raisin in the Sun, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart who co-starred in the repertory productions of No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot, as well as Zachary Quinto who was the only star of The Glass Menagerie to be left off.  Other shows that did not receive any nominations – some to great surprise – are the box-office smash Betrayal, the big-budget musical Big Fish, and the musicals Soul Doctor, First Date, and the revival of Cabaret.

Interestingly, all the nominees for Best Director of a Play were for revivals, rather than new plays.  These are John Tiffanytony awards statue for The Glass Menagerie, Kenny Leon for A Raisin in the Sun, Tim Carroll for Twelfth Night, and Michael Grandage for The Cripple of Inishmaan.  Perhaps the nominating committee prefers to acknowledge the work of directors who revive older works, rather than those who create the first Broadway production of a new play.  They failed to recognize Bill Rauch for All the Way and James Lapine for Act One, both of whom worked magic with large casts.

Furthermore, it is notable that no women were nominated for play directing awards, and only one woman was nominated for directing a musical: Leigh Silverman for Violet.  What’s more, none of the ten new plays this season were written by women.  In fact, women were notably few amongst the nominees overall – with the clear exceptions of the Best Actress categories.  Patrick Healy of The New York Times postulated that this is because men in power often choose those with whom they have a friendly relationship for high-up positions in the theatre, so it often turns out that men serve these roles.

“Act One” Opens on Broadway

The Vivian Beaumont Theatre is the 1,105 seat Broadway house run by Lincoln Center, which also operates two smaller houses in their beautiful West 65th Street complex.  This revolving stage is presently occupied by the set of Act One, a play written and directed by James Lapine, based off the memoir of the same name by Moss Hart.  As the set by Beowulf Boritt revolves, the audience is able to glimpse the past, present, and future scenes of Hart’s life at once, which sets the tone for the multi-generational time-hopping play.  Though many critics gave positive reviews to this story catering to the theatrical die-hards, other reviewers found it lacking drama, despite being a recounting of the ultimate drama success story.

Without fail, critics praised the performances of the two main actors.  Santino Fontana, who has increasingly come into the Broadway consciousness of late due to his star turns as the Prince in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as the lead in the Off-Broadway play Sons of the Prophet, plays Moss Hart as a young man.  Tony Shalhoub, well-known to the public through the television show Monk,and a Lincoln Center favorite recently seen in Golden Boy, has multiple parts to play: Moss Hart as an older man, his father Barnett, and also his great collaborator, George S. Kaufman.  Throughout most of the first act, Shalhoub juggles the first two of these roles, generally serving as narrator when playing Hart as an older man, while Fontana simultaneously serves as a second narrator.  Finally at the end of Act I, Shalhoub re-enters, this time as Kaufman, who joins forces with Hart to create some of the great musical collaborations of Broadway history, such as You Can’t Take it With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and the play Merrily We Roll Along, which later served as the source for the musical of the same name whose score was written by Stephen Sondheim.

James Lapine knows a thing or two about collaboration himself, as he is best known for his musical theatre collaborations with Behind the Curtain of Act One! Chart Theater Legend Moss Hart’s Extraordinary Journey to Broadwaythe Stephen Sondheim.  Their work together includes Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins, and Passion.  It therefore must have been very close to Lapine’s heart to tell this rags-to-riches story of a young theatre artist looking for his big break, only to find a collaborator in a more experienced individual.  For the most part, Lapine manages to adapt Hart’s memoir with a significant degree of wit and a great deal of humor.  However, it is extremely difficult to adapt an entire book into a play of manageable length, and this play does trail on the long side.  Whereas the first act was critiqued as being a bit cliché, for which any story of a struggling artist could have filled in, the second act suffers from the lack of dramatic tension and over-exposition.

The play also features excellent supporting performances by Matthew Saldivar (Peter and the Starcatcher), Will Brill (Tribes), and Will LeBow as both Jed Harris and Augustus Pitou.  Despite fabulous work from the cast, however, the production is overblown and the storytelling at times flavorless.  Though it makes perfect sense that this biography of a modern theatre icon would find its home on the Vivian Beaumont stage, the theatrical adaptation of this theatre master’s life story does not quite match up to his legacy.

Stephen Colbert Takes Over Letterman in 2015

Exactly one week after David Letterman announced his retirement from The Late Show, a position he has held since 1993, CBS announced that his successor would be Stephen Colbert.  Colbert, who is now 49, has signed a 5 year agreement with CBS.  His premiere date is presently unclear, but it will likely be sometime in the first months of 2015.  The show will continue to be filmed in New York’s Ed Sullivan Theater.

stephen colbert late show david letterman cbs emmysColbert rose to prominence over the course of his comedy television career, and since 2005 he has hosted his own Comedy Central series The Colbert Report.  Where many had postulated that Letterman would be succeeded by others including Craig Ferguson, Ellen Degeneres, or Neil Patrick Harris, the consensus seems to be generally pleased with the network’s decision to select Colbert.  In fact, Colbert is so popular that the largest complaint from the public is bemoaning the loss of The Colbert Report, which is a show very different in tone and style than The Late Show has historically been.  Whereas The Late Show is a late-night talk show consisting of a standard monologue, guest interviews, and live musical performance, The Colbert Report stands out for its satirical tone, most notably due to Colbert’s adoption of an alter-ego persona for the duration of the tapings.

Colbert first began to develop his now-famous onscreen persona in 1996 when he appeared in seven episodes of ABC’s prime time sketch comedy show The Dana Carvey Show, honing his character of a deadpan anchor delivering the news.  From 1997 to 2005, Colbert was a regular correspondent on The Daily Show, which has been hosted by Jon Stewart since 1999.  Throughout this period, he developed his character into a blatantly ignorant correspondent, who is unaware of his own lack of knowledge on the subjects he discusses.  In this way, Colbert was able to strike a genius balance between mockery and deliverance of his true opinion, guarded by the shield of comedy.

With the inception of The Colbert Report in 2005, Colbert became notorious for this alternate persona, leading him to great fame including two Peabody Awards and 27 Emmy nominations, as well as the 2013 Emmy Award for outstanding variety series, among other wins.  He also authored several books in this character, including I Am America (And So Can You!) in 2007, and America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t in 2012.  With the announcement of Colbert’s assumption of Letterman’s position at The Late Show, it became clear that this meant the end of The Colbert Report, and many of the show’s over one million nightly viewers were less than pleased.

It is now clear that Colbert will officially retire his persona along with his Comedy Central series, and that he will adopt a more genuine voice as the host of The Late Show.  Many Colbert Report devotees will need to choose whether they maintain their devotion to the man behind the character, even when he is out of character.  As The Colbert Report offers a news alternative that is truly irreverent, Colbert will now need to finesse his new onscreen presence to satisfy The Late Show viewership along
with his longtime fans.

On this past Tuesday night, April 22, 2014, Stephen Colbert paid a visit to David Letterman as a guest on The Late Show.  Letterman welcomed him very good naturedly, and Colbert appeared in black-rimmed glasses that made it clear his persona was nowhere to be seen.  Unlike when Jay Leno was chosen to succeed Johnny Carson as host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, despite Carson’s clear preference of Letterman, this appears to be a case where the host is happily passing the mantle to his chosen successor.  To demonstrate just how supportive he is, Letterman and Colbert even took a selfie.

 

David Letterman and Steven Colbert Take Selfie

Book of Mormon Touring Show Criss-Crosses the U.S.

When a musical is doing well on Broadway, its producers will generally opt to take the show on a U.S. National Tour, as they will have optioned this right along with their original Broadway rights agreement.  As such, a tour is often the mark of a successful show, sometimes taking place after a show has earned a number of Tony Awards that can be touted as the show travels from state to state.  There are also cases in which a tour can be launched after a show has flopped on Broadway, in an effort to recoup some of the lost funds in cities other than New York.  For instance Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, which concluded its Broadway run on January 4, 2014, will soon open a Las Vegas production and is also considering an arena tour around the country, though its large-scale special effects may make that difficult.  While it sold many tickets over its 3-year run, becoming the sixteenth-highest grossing show of all time, it still failed to recoup its enormous capitalization, estimated at $75 million.  More investment would need to be raised, and yet a tour could potentially earn back some of Spiderman’s lost capital.

Book Of Mormon Broadway - USA Map
The Book of Mormon
, on the other hand, is far from a flop.  Between extremely high demand and clever dynamic pricing strategies, the satirical musical managed to recoup its $11.4 million investment after only nine months of performances.  The show has been playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre since March 2011, where it looks to remain for many years to come.  After making a huge splash at the 2011 Tony Awards, receiving 14 nominations and 9 wins, the show ran for another year before the producers decided to launch a national tour.  On August 14, 2012, the first national tour began at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, then proceeding to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles where it played for the fall season, before continuing on a tour around the country that is still underway.  Meanwhile, a replica production ran at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre from December 11, 2012 to October 6, 2013, after which it also began a tour around the country, thereby allowing The Book of Mormon to enjoy two tours simultaneously.  This is in addition to the West End production, which has been running in London’s Prince of Wales Theatre since February 2013.

 

The Book Of Mormon
This is not the only show that has made the choice to launch two simultaneous tours.  Wicked presently has two tours running, and Elf the Musical launched two simultaneous tours during the holiday season of 2013.  Still, The Book of Mormon is covering a lot of ground between its two touring companies.  While the first national tour is presently playing in Boston, the second national tour is enjoying a run at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre, where the first tour played a year and a half ago.  Next, the first tour will play Providence, Rhode Island; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; East Lansing, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and the list goes on.  Meanwhile, after the second tour finishes in Los Angeles, it will proceed to Costa Mesa, California; San Diego, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and many more.  As such, the show is effectively criss-crossing the United States, allowing theatregoers all over the country to catch a performance at a theatre near them, and exponentially boosting profits for the producers.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4/20/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

THE TWO MILLION DOLLAR CLUB
Two heavy hitting shows, Wicked and The Lion King, both managed to cross the threshold into the two million dollar gross mark this past week.  Whereas grossing over one million dollars is already a significant achievement for any show, even a musical, these two crowd-pleasing musicals continue to show incredible success at the box office.  The reason is that each show played nine performances this past week, which is one higher than the usual 8.  The producers of both shows must have been aiming to capitalize on the higher tourist traffic due to spring break, as well as the finally balmy weather.  Wicked, which has now been running for over 10 years, holds the record for the highest weekly gross of all time, which was $3.2 million over nine performances in the last week of 2013. The Lion King, which has been running since fall 1997, was the highest grossing show of 2013, pulling in $97 million throughout the year.
This past week, Wicked grossed a whomping $2,769,554, which was an increase of $839,192 from the previous week.  With a top ticket price of $300, this show has not resorted to price gauging for premium tickets as much as, say, The Book of Mormon, which charges as much as $477 for premium seats, granted in a smaller theatre.  Filling its 17,352 seats to 100% capacity, Wicked earned 146.44% of its gross potential due to premium ticket pricing.  The Lion King, on the other hand, also made it into the two million dollar club, grossing $2,543,377 this past week over its nine performances, which was an increase of $628,440 from the previous week.  The Lion King had a top ticket price of only $197.50, which demonstrates restraint of the part of the show’s producers, and with an average ticket price of $166.19, the show grossed $102.54% of its gross potential.

OVERALL AN EXCELLENT WEEK
With few exceptions, every show experienced an increase in gross ticket sales in the week ending April 20, 2014.  The four shows that went down did so only slightly, all losing under $100,000 from the previous week. Hedwig and the Angry Inch grossed $68,797 less than last week, presumably due to complimentary press tickets given out in anticipation of its wildly successful opening.  Mothers and Sons, Of Mice and Men, and The Velocity of Autumn all went down a relatively small amount as well.  Overall, however, this was a hugely successful week on Broadway.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending April 20, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Analysis 4-20-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $507,224 6,201 85.46% $81.80
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,212,665 8,368 100.00% $144.92
ACT ONE $340,604 6,344 73.15% $53.69
AFTER MIDNIGHT $542,801 7,112 85.81% $76.32
ALADDIN $1,225,128 13,797 100.09% $88.80
ALL THE WAY $1,067,173 9,729 85.52% $109.69
BEAUTIFUL $1,027,244 8,147 99.26% $126.09
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $974,076 11,730 89.95% $83.04
CABARET $692,319 7,094 100.42% $97.59
CASA VALENTINA $212,097 4,796 93.09% $44.22
CHICAGO $845,382 8,275 95.78% $102.16
CINDERELLA $1,412,944 13,529 96.58% $104.44
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $815,295 7,116 100.95% $114.57
IF/THEN $1,104,188 10,372 98.89% $106.46
JERSEY BOYS $854,430 8,556 87.09% $99.86
KINKY BOOTS $1,629,283 11,341 99.55% $143.66
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $459,071 4,640 97.19% $98.94
LES MISÉRABLES $1,396,410 11,258 99.88% $124.04
MAMMA MIA! $950,480 9,472 101.54% $100.35
MATILDA $1,577,093 11,542 100.75% $136.64
MOTHERS AND SONS $187,192 3,355 52.29% $55.79
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,179,643 11,533 95.66% $102.28
NEWSIES $1,069,367 10,756 100.85% $99.42
OF MICE AND MEN $755,158 7,508 99.96% $100.58
ONCE $681,763 7,732 91.27% $88.17
PIPPIN $882,705 7,843 99.03% $112.55
ROCK OF AGES $421,341 4,477 95.99% $94.11
ROCKY $1,022,747 10,654 87.85% $96.00
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,689,905 8,752 102.63% $193.09
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $345,270 5,243 64.32% $65.85
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $463,064 8,212 95.67% $56.39
THE LION KING $2,543,377 15,304 100.03% $166.19
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,517,305 12,759 99.37% $118.92
THE REALISTIC JONESES $613,441 6,532 93.64% $93.91
THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN $94,400 4,011 75.49% $23.54
VIOLET $283,182 5,879 100.12% $48.17
WICKED $2,769,554 17,352 100.00% $159.61
Totals: $35,365,319 327,321 93.11% $100.32

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

“Of Mice and Men” Opens on Broadway

John Steinbeck’s 1937 play Of Mice and Men, based on his 1937 novella of the same name, is presently being revived on Broadway for the second time.  On April 16, 2014, Anna D. Shapiro’s production of this classic story of two displaced migrant workers during the Great Depression opened at the Longacre Theatre.  This production has received a great deal of press, primarily because it stars James Franco, the ever-increasingly famous (with bouts of infamy) multi-hyphenate actor, writer, director, producer, author, teacher, and poet.  He stars alongside Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester, both also stars of the screen making their Broadway debuts.  As such, it has been selling considerably well at the box office, averaging around 96% capacity with an average ticket price of $101.76.  Therefore, though the production received mixed to positive reviews following its opening, this is unlikely to sway ticket-buyers who are more drawn by the star factor of the face on the marquis than by promises of quality.


Ben Brantley of The New York Times is by far New York’s most influential Broadway theatre critic.  Producers flaunt positive quotes with his byline, and they live in fear of his negative responses to their shows.  In an era where people are reading fewer newspapers than ever before, New York City has become a one-paper town, where Brantley rules the theatre section.  James Franco, though new to the Broadway scene, has clearly picked up on the sensitivity of this one man’s opinion to his show’s fate, and in the fashion of any egomaniac on a quest for world domination, he decided to publicly flaunt his distaste for Brantley’s less than positive review.  Of course, Franco’s medium of choice for this proclamation was none other than Instagram.  (Lest we forget, this is the same place that Franco made an utter fool of himself two weeks ago for blatantly hitting on a Scottish 17 year-old whom he had met outside of the Of Mice and Men stage door.)  After Brantley published a critical review of Franco’s stage demeanor and level of acting effort, Franco posted to Instagram a link to the positive Variety review, then commenting that Brantley is a “little bitch” whom the theatre community hates for good reason, as he is an “idiot”.  Though he has since taken down this post, it only further illustrates Franco’s lack of grace and dangerously swollen ego.

Other reviewers were more positive in their reviews of the play.  Variety, Time Out New York, NBC, and the Hollywood Reporter all praised the revival and Ms. Shapiro’s direction.  The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, was more in line with Brantley.  Charles McNulty reviewed Franco as being in “CliffsNotes mode,” which is not surprising as he is flying to L.A. to teach a class on his one day off, while also working on his innumerable other projects, when most other Broadway stars would be focused on their stage performance.  Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Franco’s success in merely dialing it in.  However, it is more likely that the greater world will continue to swoon for his celebrity, excusing his madness and even finding it endearing, and allowing him to take credit for wild success when his biggest achievement seems to be just showing up.  It is time we acknowledge that James Franco has become a brand.  We generally look for a soul in our Broadway performers, and it seems Franco’s has long been buried by his ever-growing success.

Of Mice and Men is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” Opens on Broadway

The Circle in the Square Theatre is one of Broadway’s more intimate venues, allowing the audience to get up close and personal with the performer in front of them.  In the case of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, which opened on April 13, 2014, the star is five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, and the personal story is that of the timeless and beloved jazz singer Billie Holiday.  According to the largely positive critical response, this play with music is an engaging and compelling piece, in which McDonald guides her crowd through the journey of Holiday’s life – both musical and personal.  The play is written by Lanie Robertson, directed by Lonny Price, and the music was arranged and orchestrated by Tim Weil.

ladyday2

The play was first produced at New York’s Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre in 1986, and this is its Broadway premiere.  This bio-show recounts the songs that made Billie Holiday famous, as well as the tales that made her notorious.  Specifically, she was an alcoholic and heroin addict, who only found balance and solace through the deep bounty of her singing voice.  The fictional set-up is meant to recreate one of Holiday’s final performances, at a small, intimate bar in Philadelphia.  Fortunately, the Circle in the Square Theatre is able to recreate this venue better than many other Broadway houses might.  Still, The New York Times critiqued the show for its lack of believability, for Holiday often performed in a dark room with a spotlight so she could not see her own audience, and she would have never divulged such a personal tale as McDonald does in this portrayal.

This show follows in the tradition of biographical shows based off the lives of now deceased performers, delving into their tragedy as well as their timeless beauty.  For instance, End of the Rainbow, also a bio-play with music, ran on Broadway in the spring of 2012, with Tracie Bennett portraying Judy Garland with all her force and folly, including her timeless hits such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”  Furthermore, the spring of 2013 saw Nathan Lane playing the 1930s burlesque performer Chauncey in The Nance, exploring the ups and the downs of his life.  Time and again, producers rely on the familiarity of historical figures recreated by modern-day performers, banking on the double name recognition to move tickets.

Lady Day and Emerson’s Bar and Grill is just hanging on at the box office.  As it is only playing seven performances a week in a theatre with only 682 seats, the show already faces difficulty in competing with the other shows in terms of weekly grosses.  Even so, its weekly figures have been fairly low.  In the week ending April 13, 2014, the show grossed $366,156, which was only 58.73% of its gross potential.  This is about how well the show has been doing since it began previews.  It is scheduled to close on August 10, 2014.

Shubert Ticketing Passes ‘Plum Benefits’ Over To EBG’s ‘TicketsAtWork.com’

Plum Benefits is a leading corporate entertainment benefits provider that specializes in providing discounted attractions and events for company employees. Plum had a specific focus on Broadway shows in NYC, the stable from which it was born.  For the past three years, Plum has been owned and managed by Shubert Ticketing.  This is a division of The Shubert Organization, a private organization owned by the Shubert Foundation, which is also the majority landlord on Broadway, owning 17 of the 40 Broadway theatres.  After acquiring Plum Benefits (Formerly SVM Marketing) from its founder Shara Mendelson in 2011 for a reported $2 million in cash, the Shuberts have continued to run the company, apparently profitably.  As of April 2, 2014, they have announced a merger with TicketsAtWork.com, which is a similar business owned by Entertainment Benefits Group (EBG).  Although it is technically a legal “merger,” the resultant business appears to be more of a takeover as the new entity is largely managed by EBG, and key Plum employees are now employees of EBG.  Oversight of the Plum Benefits brand has been passed from Shubert Ticketing to another Shubert sub-division, “Broadway Inbound.”

Differences Between The Companies

The difference between EBG’s Tickets-APlum Benefits Merges with EBG Entertainment Benefits Groupt-Work and Plum Benefits is that while Plum is based in the New York City area and specializes in promoting Broadway shows to Fortune 500 employers, Tickets-At-Work has a wider reach geographically and also has a significantly larger roster of major entertainment companies including theme parks, hotels, flights, and travel.  In addition, Plum Benefits has until now been using a link-off site transaction process, requiring users to purchase tickets outside of their platform.  On the other hand, Tickets-At-Work uses an internal transaction process, offering a proprietary ticketing technology developed by EBG that only allows customers to buy tickets within their website.  The Shuberts, who are notoriously slow to adopt new technology and practices, have surprisingly provided a competitive advantage to EBG in terms of allowing Tickets-At-Work to engage in end-to-end transactional ticket sales using the Shuberts’ own back-end data from Telecharge, something no other Broadway business has been allowed to do.  Tickets-At-Work has the unique and enviable position of no longer needing to use discount codes, and they are able to circumvent broadwayoffers.com completely, the traditional website that all other market players have been forced to use for online discount Broadway tickets.  It’s unclear if the Shuberts are just testing the waters with Tickets-At-Work and plan to roll out the ticket sales API to other Broadway ticket vendors, or whether they intend to keep this competitive advantage for their Tickets-At-Work relationship only.  It is also unclear how Broadway show producers feel about Plum and EBG’s Tickets-At-Work having this logistical advantage over all the other players in the Broadway ticket market, especially given that EBG and Tickets-At-Work are outside the normal Broadway ticket sales channels.  It is yet to be seen if Broadway producers will see any real value in an increase in ticket sales from this merger. The new website for Plum Benefits looks largely identical to the existing Tickets-At-Work website, not only in terms of structure but also design, but now Plum clients are pitched a dizzying array of other products and services.  Plum Benefits is now called “Plum Benefits, powered by TicketsAtWork,” but the IP address of the new PlumBenefits.com website is actually owned by EBG, further underscoring the fact that it is the latter who has the overall power in this relationship.  Despite the duplicate layout, the differences in the companies’ specialties are clear by the activities that are advertised on each of their sections on the home pages: presently, Plum Benefits’ section advertises Aladdin the musical, as well as Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe, and the jukebox 80s musical Rock of Ages.  On the other hand, the rest of the site is dedicated to Tickets-At-Work and promotes Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Cirque du Soleil, and the recently much maligned Sea World.

Plumbenefits, now part of the EBG Group including TicketsAtWork

Plum Benefits, now part of the EBG Entertainment Benefits Group that includes TicketsAtWork

Plum Benefits Business Model

The business model for Plum Benefits had thrived for many years under Shara Mendelson’s iron-fist rule. principally because it was a free service exclusively for employer corporations and organizations.  This is especially attractive as employers have been cutting back on “fringe” benefits in recent years, adding voluntary benefits made up for that void.  Plum’s revenue comes from fees paid by the producers of the entertainment events, so corporate members incur zero cost while producers pay for the promotional benefits of the service.  Therefore, it is surprising that the Shuberts would decide to share ownership of this cash-cow so soon after acquiring it themselves.  Fortunately for them, the agreement provides that they retain rights to the name and trademark of Plum Benefits, and presumably take a fee from all transactions, though EBG conducts the business on their behalf.  At the ground level, they are erasing many roles within their organization, removing what they may have considered to be role redundancies.  EBG has reported that the remaining Plum Benefits staff who manage the corporate clients are now employees of EBG.  It is unclear whether the former Plum Benefits organization was failing to make sufficient profits, or whether there were some other logistical reasons for this merger/takeover decision. In any case, existing Plum Benefits customers can now enjoy a seemingly endless roster of entertainment options, as well as a streamlined booking process.  With a 19 hours a day, 365 days a year, dedicated customer service team and the seamless back-end ticketing technology that the Shuberts have allowed EBG to implement on their behalf, the Tickets-At-Work merger appears to be a step forward from the consumer perspective.

Shopping At Work

However, Plum Benefits’ existing corporate client roster may balk at the multitude of new choices to which their employees now have access through the new relationship.  HR departments are already very wary of being aligned with this new service, as their own employees and management approval may take interpret this as their HR department encouraging and approving of “shopping at work,” something that corporate management is keen to avoid.  HR employees are very concerned about being seen as providing benefits and value, but not distractions, for their employees at work.  The new Plum Benefits’ site does not provide a method to switch off the multitude of offers, and employees are force-fed all these offers from the new partnership, often against their will.  What is missing from this model is the HR manager’s desire, and discretion, to pick and choose what types of offers they want to provide to their employees and which ones they do not, which may mean many Corporations may jump ship to other solutions such as “Corporate Perks” by Nextjump or “Corporate Offers,” which are more attuned to the HR division’s needs. With EBG and “Tickets At Work” primarily based in Aventura, Florida, it is clear that the bulk of the offers will no longer be focused on New York City and certainly not on Broadway shows.  Plum will inevitably see a dilution of interest in Broadway show attractions, but an increase in overall income from its commissions from the other entertainment sales in this joint venture.  Broadway shows expect that their overall ticket sales will go down for Plum, even though the merger with TAW opens up their product to a lot more people, most of whom aren’t in the NYC area.  As such, any ticket sales will be “visitor” sales, something to which the Broadway producer has historically been able to sell full-price tickets, but they are now are stuck selling at a discount, even though they didn’t ask for one.

Overall Value To Each Organization

Through this relationship, it is clear that  EBG’s Tickets-At-Work now has a great opportunity to pitch their endless wares to Plum Benefits’ exclusive corporate club, and will no doubt see profit growth through this merger/takeover.  The Shuberts’ Plum Benefits, however, gets to deliver a wider product range to their existing client base and, in theory, will see increased sales of Broadway tickets.  In reality though, sales of Broadway tickets may in fact go down (due to offer dilution) and their existing corporate client base may be confused and bewildered by the array of choice now available for their employees.  It is expected that the Shuberts will have increased revenue from the Plum Benefits division from the sales of non-Broadway product to their existing clients, making up for any losses incurred by a reduction in overall Broadway ticket sales.  Plum Benefits has opened up their corporate client base to peruse hundreds of other competing entertainment offers, something that does not seem wholly appropriate for the HR divisions of the various blue chip corporations, and this is also quite surprising given that the Shuberts’ mission statement is to help develop Broadway Theatre.  It appears that they may have instead sold out for cash, or at least a commission on the sale. The merger of these two entities was the brainchild of Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing (formerly of Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours and co-founder of Broadway Inbound) and Brett Reizen, EBG President and CEO.  Both individuals are now board members of the newly combined organization and did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Brett Reizen at EBG

Brett Reizen at EBG

 

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4/13/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN
This past week, The Cripple of Inishmaan began previews at the Cort Theatre starring Daniel Radcliffe.  With only two performances underway, it is difficult to estimate the success of advance ticket sales for this show, but its early figures look promising.  The show grossed $155,234 over two performances, averaging 99.4% capacity with an average paid admission of $72.78.  Though this ticket price is fairly low, presumably due to discounting as well as complimentary tickets for the creative team, the play still made 94.75% of its gross potential.  Clearly the star power of Daniel Radcliffe has a lot to do with these high numbers, especially in light of the fact that a revival of an Irish dark comedy may not otherwise do so well.  This is a transfer from a West End revival of the show, also starring Daniel Radcliffe.

REVIEWS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Two straight plays that opened last week to positive reviews saw a significant increase in ticket sales.  A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington was already faring quite well, selling out during previews.  The play even grossed over one million dollars for two weeks in a row during previews, a significant coup for a straight play.  However, in the week leading up to the show’s opening, the weekly gross fell to $929,151.  Fortunately, after the play opened on April 3rd to laudatory notices, audiences responded with ticket purchases, as this past week the play had its highest weekly gross yet: $1,182,511.
More notably, The Realistic Joneses also saw a stark increase in sales following its opening.  The reason this increase is more notable than that of A Raisin in the Sun is because the play is written by Will Eno, a playwright only theatre die-hards would know, and it stars famous actors who are not nearly as famous as Denzel Washington.  Though this play grossed less than half as much as Raisin, it still saw a steep increase of $107,825 from the previous week.  After the play opened on April 6th, The New York Times declared it a Critics’ Pick, and many other reviewers responded strongly as well.  Therefore, these figures show how theatregoers indeed respond to published praise, which is good news for producers who rely on critical support to demonstrate the merits of their shows without recognizable names to boost the box office.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending April 13, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis 4-13-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $407,665 5,122 70.59% $79.59
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,182,511 8,368 100.00% $141.31
ACT ONE $309,452 6,316 72.83% $48.99
AFTER MIDNIGHT $417,318 5,568 67.18% $74.95
ALADDIN $1,178,422 13,786 100.01% $85.48
ALL THE WAY $893,167 8,206 72.13% $108.84
BEAUTIFUL $917,392 7,669 93.43% $119.62
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $813,145 11,221 86.05% $72.47
CABARET $667,721 6,823 96.59% $97.86
CASA VALENTINA $192,074 4,047 78.55% $47.46
CHICAGO $607,106 7,070 81.83% $85.87
CINDERELLA $946,408 11,425 81.56% $82.84
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $884,092 7,048 100.59% $125.44
IF/THEN $964,759 9,295 88.63% $103.79
JERSEY BOYS $665,420 6,741 68.62% $98.71
KINKY BOOTS $1,422,291 10,769 94.53% $132.07
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $366,156 4,639 97.17% $78.93
LES MISÉRABLES $1,147,961 10,126 89.83% $113.37
MAMMA MIA! $627,337 7,442 79.78% $84.30
MATILDA $1,174,694 11,368 99.23% $103.33
MOTHERS AND SONS $238,128 3,412 53.18% $69.79
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,067,046 10,425 86.47% $102.35
NEWSIES $744,353 8,701 91.78% $85.55
OF MICE AND MEN $796,078 8,321 96.94% $95.67
ONCE $473,697 5,333 62.95% $88.82
PIPPIN $630,280 6,307 79.63% $99.93
ROCK OF AGES $347,060 4,227 90.63% $82.11
ROCKY $754,394 8,773 72.34% $85.99
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,586,091 8,752 102.63% $181.23
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $322,366 4,424 54.27% $72.87
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $155,234 2,133 99.39% $72.78
THE LION KING $1,914,937 13,602 100.01% $140.78
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $958,388 11,535 89.84% $83.09
THE REALISTIC JONESES $518,159 5,935 85.08% $87.31
THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN $100,056 3,074 50.63% $32.55
VIOLET $258,167 5,080 86.51% $50.82
WICKED $1,930,362 15,275 99.03% $126.37
Totals: $28,579,879 288,358 84.34% $93.06

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 Realistic Joneses’ Opens on Broadway

It’s not an easy time for a new play to thrive on Broadway.  The Realistic Joneses, which opened on April 6, 2014 to largely positive reviews, is still struggling to stay afloat at the box office.  This is the Broadway debut for playwright Will Eno, who is known for his less accessible but equally quirky Off-Broadway works such as Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Middletown.  The play premiered in May 2012 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  Both the regional and Broadway productions are directed by Sam Gold, whose remarkable career rise has confirmed him as the go-to director for adventurous new plays, especially those that feature a casual, realistic writing style.  Of the four actors in the cast, only one has remained for the transfer – Tracy Letts, who is the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of August: Osage County as well as the Tony Award winning actor from last year’s revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The other three roles are played by Toni Collette, who has been on Broadway once before in The Wild Party, Michael C. Hall, who has played Broadway musical leads in both Cabaret and Chicago, and Marisa Tomei, who has previously appeared in three Broadway plays: Top Girls, Salome, and Wait Until Dark.  Though all three actors are much better known for their film work, these names are by no means box office gold of the likes of Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, or James Franco, who are presently competing for audience attention on Broadway, also in straight plays.  Whereas musicals can often survive on Broadway without Hollywood stars, especially if they feature a familiar title, plays rarely enter the greater national consciousness without a special boost.

Although The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood gave the play an unqualified rave, marking it as a Critics’ Pick, the box office was actually worse for this past week than the one preceding it.  For the week ending in April 6, 2014, gross ticket sales were $410,334, down $51,902 from the previous week.  However, it must be noted that the week leading up to a show’s opening includes numerous performances designated as “press performances,” for which complimentary tickets are offered to critics from a wide array of publications.  This would partly explain the lower gross, especially in light of the fact that the average ticket price also went down that week to $67.88 from $82.62 the week before.

The play is scheduled to run until July 6, 2014.  Its producers, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, often take gambles with shows that are not guaranteed slam dunks.  In this same season, they also are producing All the Way, a new play but with the box office support of its star Bryan Cranston, The Bridges of Madison County, a musical with a familiar title that is struggling to stay alive, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, which features Broadway favorite Audra McDonald as the timeless favorite Billie Holiday.  Though The Realistic Joneses may be this producing team’s most risky show on Broadway right now, they have made a habit of mounting shows by recognized playwrights, which may or may not have stars.  In any case, it is to their credit that they manage to support new writing in a climate where few dare to take such ventures, seeking to overcome the bias against plays without megastars.