The traditional Broadway show week includes eight performances, typically with evening shows on Tuesday through Saturday, and matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. For actors and crew, this means Monday off and a double show day on Wednesdays, or in cases with a Sunday evening show, this requires them to play for a five performance weekend. However, Wednesday matinees have traditionally slow sales, and five performances over one weekend can be a lot for actors. Therefore, producers have begun experimenting with changes to this performance calendar. The most extreme change that several shows have begun instigating is a matinee on Thursday afternoon.
In recent weeks, three musicals have begun to offer shows on Thursday afternoons: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Mamma Mia!, and The Phantom of the Opera. Matilda the Musical is reportedly also considering such a change. In order to stick to Actor’s Equity rules of no more than an eight performance week (although sometimes they make exception for holiday periods, allowing nine performances in a week), the producers of each show have needed to alter the overall weekly schedule, and each show has done so differently.
Cinderella has opted to keep their Wednesday matinee in adding on a Thursday matinee, instead removing Tuesday evening performances. As this musical caters to children, especially young girls, it makes sense that weekdays would be preferable to weekday evenings, as tourists on week-long vacations will be able to take advantage during the daytimes. Mamma Mia!, on the other hand, has opted to remove their Wednesday matinee in adding on a Thursday matinee, and furthermore they offer a Monday 8:00pm performance in place of a Sunday matinee. More of a date night fare, this show therefore offers 8:00pm showings every night except Sunday, with matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays. Phantom of the Opera has chosen to do something very similar, with matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays, except that on Tuesdays their curtain is at 7:00pm.
A 7:00pm curtain has also begun to appear more and more frequently in recent years, which allows theatregoers to attend a late dinner after shorter shows, or instead to eat a very early dinner and get home earlier. This decision to vary evening curtain times allows for the fact that theatregoers have differing schedules, avoiding the chance that someone will decide not to attend a show just because the hour at which it begins or ends does not work with their work or home schedules.
This addition of a Thursday matinee will be an interesting trend to watch. It will allow theatre-loving tourists to cram more shows into a week if they happen to be in town for just a few weekdays. Furthermore, if it is more successful than the Wednesday matinee has been, then it will show that people tend to have more flexible schedules later in the week. In any case, this demonstrates that producers are trying to keep on top of changing trends and stay relevant to their audience community.