Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to Compose for Pinter’s “Old Times”

Unusual Collaboration Between Music and Theatre Worlds

Thom Yorke

On September 17, 2015, the revival of Harold Pinter’s play Old Times will begin previews at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production. Beyond the fact that Clive Owen is making his Broadway debut in the role of Deeley, there is something else out of the ordinary taking place with this production. The music is not composed by a traditional theatrical composer, but rather by the legend of alternative rock music Thom Yorke, most famously of the band Radiohead. Thom Yorke is the singer and main songwriter of Radiohead, a band renowned for its innovations in experimental and alternative rock since it began releasing songs in 1993. Radiohead, though renowned around the world and particularly in the United States, is originally from Oxfordshire, England. Specifically, Yorke was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire in 1968, and then his family settled in Oxfordshire in 1978, where he would later meet his future bandmates. Radiohead has now sold over 30 million albums worldwide. Their most recent album release was in 2011; this was their eighth studio album. They are reportedly at work on a ninth album. In addition, Thom Yorke has been building a solo career since his first solo release in 2006. His second solo album was released in 2014, entitled Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.

First Broadway Revival of Classic Pinter Playold times

Old Times premiered on Broadway in 1971, at the time being the fifth production of a Pinter play on Broadway. The 2015 revival will be the second time the show has been on Broadway. Its original premiere was at the Aldwych Theatre in London’s West End in June 1971, and the Broadway production followed later than year in November. A recent London revival took place in 2013 at the recently renamed Harold Pinter Theatre (formerly the Comedy Theatre), directed by Ian Rickson and starring Rufus Sewell, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Lia Williams. This Broadway revival, on the other hand, will be directed by Douglas Hodge, and will star Clive Owen in his Broadway debut, along with Eve Best and Kelly Reilly. The play deals with the concepts of identity, adultery, and honesty. It can be interpreted in various ways, one of which is that all three individuals are different people, and the other is that the two women are interchangeable. In fact, in the recent London revival, the two actresses switches roles on various nights, having prepared to play both roles. Though this will not be the case in the Broadway production, it sheds some light into the fascinating ways in which this play can be viewed.

An Increasingly Versatile Move for Thom Yorke

Thom Yorke is well known for pushing frontiers in his musical styles, and recently he has also diversified the ways in which his music is released. For his recent 2014 solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, he opted to release the songs via BitTorrent, rather than through the traditional outlets. He then performed tracks from the album at a secret performance at this year’s Latitude Festival. Now, in additional to taking to the digital, Yorke is taking to arguably the most traditional performance art form: theatre. While he has a great deal of experience performing on stages from pubs to stadiums, he will now allow his music to be played on the theatrical stage for the first time.

Colbert Late Show To Do Battle With Fallon’s Tonight Show

Both Air in Same Time Slot: Weeknights at 11:30pm

jimmy fallon stephen colbertWith Stephen Colbert having taken over David Letterman’s longtime tenure as host of the Late Show on CBS, he is now is the same time slot as one of his colleagues and competitors: Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show on NBC. Whereas David Letterman traditionally catered to an older demographic than Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert stepping into the Late Show shoes mean that he and Jimmy Fallon are now competing for the same younger demographic. Though Colbert is 51, which is significantly older than Fallon at age 40, he generally caters to the same younger demographic, at least to a younger demographic than Letterman did in his time. This is the first time that the two late night shows are very different in both style and content; whereas Colbert presents a funny look at serious subject matter, Fallon has taken his show more to irreverent interviews along with hilarious Saturday Night Live style sketches. Though there are no clear ratings comparisons at this time, as Colbert has only just begun his new tenure, it is clear that the competition will be fierce and the networks will need to consider the matter from a different angle than they are used to. The format of the traditional late night hosts such as David Letterman and Jay Leno now seems so long ago, and we have entered a new era of late night television

The Battle for Viral Videos as Much as Traditional Ratingsjimmy fallon stephen colbert

When Stephen Colbert led his Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, 43 percent of his regular audience was under age 30 (according to a survey by Pew). However, in having abandoned his conservation character Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report, he will need to work to hold onto his younger fan base. On the other hand, he has a much stronger hold on that demographic than his predecessor, David Letterman. Both Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon are renowned not only for captivating audiences in their traditional television time slots, but also for cultivating a strong following from people watching recap videos online, on sites such as youtube as well as the networks’ own websites. Therefore, the battle between Colbert and Fallon to captivate viewers will not only depend on the simultaneity of their television airings, but also on their ability to retain viewership on the viral video channels. When Fallon got his start in 2009, he significantly lowered the average age for late night viewers as a whole, and a great part of his strategy was focusing on viral videos. To this point, Colbert has already begun to capitalize on that strategy as well, through creating a podcast and website in anticipation of the launch of his reign on the Late Show, and by launching memorable moments such as shaving his “Colbeard” that he grew during his time off from appearing on television.

The Implications for Advertiser Revenue

As of now, there is a $100 million advertising gap between Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show on NBC and the Late Show on CBS. In taking over from David Letterman, Stephen Colbert has his work cut out for him in terms of closing that gap. In 2014, of the $412.1 million that advertisers spent on the 11:30pm timeslot on the networks CBS, NBC, and ABC, Jimmy Fallon’s show snagged 47.6 percent of that, at $196.3 million. Furthermore, that number increased throughout the four quarters of 2014, with Fallon earning 46.4 percent in the 2nd quarter, 51.5 percent in the 3rd quarter, and the finishing out the year with 55 percent in the final quarter. On the other hand, David Letterman’s numbers decreased each quarter, culminating in just 22.5 percent in the final quarter of 2014. Of course, these numbers do not take into account the viral video viewership. Nevertheless, Stephen Colbert will need to work hard to cultivate viewership that will warrant competitive advertising revenue for the network, which from a business perspective, is exactly what he was hired to do.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 8/30/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Continuing on a Downward Pattern Before Fall Season

In the week ending August 30, 2015, the Broadway industry as a whole continued to see a decrease in sales. Like last week, the majority of shows saw a decrease in ticket sales compared to the week before, but most of the numbers were not huge. Also like last week, the biggest decreases were seen by the highest grossing musicals, namely The Lion King and Wicked. Of the 24 shows that were running this past week, only four saw an increase in ticket sales. By far the highest increase was seen by On the Town, in its penultimate week of performances having announced the closure of the run. The show brought in a weekly gross of $914,434, which was an increase of $519,055 from the week before. Following this large six figure increase, the next biggest increase was seen by Hamilton, the buzziest new musical on Broadway. This week, the gross for Hamilton was $1,548,928, which is an increase of $92,175 from the week before. This is also the highest gross for Hamilton yet, reaching a remarkable 116.03% of its gross potential as increasingly hungry fans have a more and more difficult time finding tickets. The only other two shows that saw an increase in sales were Beautiful, with an increase of $15,043 to reach a weekly gross of $901,998, and Les Miserables, with an increase of $13,291 to reach a weekly gross of $754,427.

“On the Town” Sees Major Increase in Penultimate Week of Performances

Of the 24 shows that ran last week, the only six figure increase was seen by On the Town. Having been running in performances since it began previews on September 20, 2014, On the Town has had a difficult time consistently selling full houses in the gigantic Lyric Theatre. Formerly known as the Foxwoods, this is where the spectacle filled Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark had actors flying through the lofted ceilings to the balcony. On the Town is a much more traditional musical, and the dancers stick to the stage. Still, the Lyric is a very large venue to fill each night. As it was recently announced that the final performance would be September 6, 2015, audiences are taking notice and ticket sales increased by a great amount this past week. Whereas almost all other shows experienced a decrease in ticket sales, even the big musicals The Lion King, Wicked, and Aladdin, the biggest increase was seen by On the Town. This past week, the show brought in $914,434, which represents 51.08% of its gross potential. Though this is by no means stupendous, it is a significant increase – not only from the previous week’s percentage reached of gross potential of 22.09%, but also from the entire run. On the Town has not brought in this much money at the box office since its first week of performances – the week ending January 4, 2015 – when it brought in $968,359, representing 54.10% of its gross potential. Other than its first and most recent weeks, the show has only cracked $700,000 once, and has often brought in gross potential percentages in the 20% range. We will see how well the show does next week in its final week of performances.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending August 30, 2015:broadway show ticket gross chart

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn  %Capacity  AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $475,706 6,154 84.86% $77.30
ALADDIN $1,582,804 13,487 97.62% $117.36
AMAZING GRACE $286,912 4,833 51.99% $59.37
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,175,967 11,109 82.71% $105.86
BEAUTIFUL $901,998 7,565 92.17% $119.23
CHICAGO $508,839 6,424 74.35% $79.21
FINDING NEVERLAND $1,000,776 10,303 85.63% $97.13
FUN HOME $700,011 5,859 98.97% $119.48
HAMILTON $1,548,928 10,710 101.34% $144.62
HAND TO GOD $245,469 3,622 58.65% $67.77
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $394,709 5,087 72.17% $77.59
JERSEY BOYS $529,457 6,001 61.09% $88.23
KINKY BOOTS $800,205 8,684 76.23% $92.15
LES MISÉRABLES $754,427 8,702 77.20% $86.70
MAMMA MIA! $977,098 9,313 99.50% $104.92
MATILDA $841,368 10,043 87.67% $83.78
ON THE TOWN $914,434 11,946 79.68% $76.55
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $951,034 10,259 76.93% $92.70
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,420,003 8,675 101.72% $163.69
THE KING AND I $885,496 6,908 82.47% $128.18
THE LION KING $1,835,217 12,778 94.18% $143.62
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $806,639 9,275 72.24% $86.97
WICKED $1,492,152 12,334 85.32% $120.98
Totals $21,736,746 206,895 82.44% $101.54

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015

Forest Whitaker to Make Broadway Debut in “Hughie”

Eugene O’Neill’s 1964 Two-Character Play

forest whitakerForest Whitaker is a very well-known screen actor. He won the Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award, and the BAFTA Award for his performance as the dictator from Uganda named Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland. His upcoming film roles include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Shack, and Story of Your Life, all filming presently or recently. However, this famous performer has never before appeared on Broadway – until now. In spring 2016, Forest Whitaker will star in Eugene O’Neill’s 1964 play Hughie. The play only has two characters; the second actor has not yet been announced. The play is to be directed by Michael Grandage, the British stage director and producer whose eponymous company – the Michael Grandage Company – will produce along with Darren Bagert and the Shubert Organization. Grandage is well known not only for his own directing work, but also for running the prestigious Donmar Warehouse theatre in London for many years. This will be a seminal production for him as well, as it will be his company’s second major production on Broadway. The first was The Cripple of Inishmaan in 2014, which starred Daniel Radcliffe and which Michael Grandage also directed.

A Night Clerk and a Hustler Take Center Stagehughie playbill

Hughie is the story of a hustler named Erie Smith (who will be played by Forest Whitaker). The play is set in a midtown hotel in the summer of 1928. Smith essentially delivers a long monologue throughout the entire play to the night clerk at the hotel, a man named Charlie Hughes. The monologue centers on how upset Smith is that the previous night clerk, a name named Hughie, has died and that his luck has since worn out. The play was originally written in 1942, but did not arrive on stage for its premiere until 1963 in Bath, England. Hughie was then first produced on Broadway in 1964 starring Jason Robards as Erie Smith; Robards was nominated for the Tony Award for his performance. Robards then revived this role in Berkeley, California in 1975, and Jack Dodson played Charlies Hughes. That same duo also revived their performances in 1981 at the Hyde Park Theatre Festival, and in 1991 at the Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island. Therefore, this is a big move for the producers to cast an entirely new pair of actors in this production, which has not been seen by a major audience in ove two decades, and not on Broadway in over five decades.

Forest Whitaker Has Made a Career on the Screen

Whitaker’s first ever attempt at acting was on stage, in the play Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. However, this was in high school. Since becoming a professional actor, he has principally performed in film and television. He first lead role was in the Clint Eastwood film Bird, where he played the musician Charlie Parker. For that performance, he earned a Golden Globe nomination and the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. He then starred in Downtown alongside Anthony Edwards and Penelope Ann Miller. He also starred in The Crying Game directed by Neil Jordan, where he played a captive British soldier named Jody. In Robert Altman’s film Pret-a-Porter in 1994, he was a member of the cast that won the National Board of Review Award for Best Acting by an Ensemble, which was the first time that award was ever given out. Since then, his major roles have included Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Wong Kar-Wai’s The Follow, Joel Schumacher’s film Phone Booth, and then the lead role in Lee Daniel’s The Butler in 2013. His Broadway debut will therefore certainly be eagerly awaited.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert Announces First Week Line Up

George Clooney and Jeb Bush Joined By Great List of Guests

On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, Late Show with Stephen Colbert will have its premiere broadcast episode on CBS. Stephen Colbert took over from David Letterman, who retired after hosting the Late Show since 1992; Letterman’s final episode aired on May 20, 2015.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert Marquee

Late Show with Stephen Colbert Marquee

Continuing the franchise, Colbert takes over after completing his highly successful run on Comedy Central with The Colbert Report, which ran from 2005 to his final episode on December 18, 2014. In the time since completing The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert grew a beard, appeared in some television shows such as House of Cards and The Mindy Project, and has been preparing for his Late Night debut. The first episode of Late Night with Stephen Colbert has thus been anticipated by his wide array of fans for a long time. The first week of guests has just been announced. On the first episode on September 8, 2015, it was previously announced that Colbert’s guests will include the presidential Republican candidate Jeb Bush, who is offering his supporters a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to view the premiere taping; the winner will be chosen from those who contribute at least $3 on the campaign’s website, but presumably higher donations have a higher probability of being chosen. In addition, the first episode guests will include the movie star George Clooney. Clooney may talk about his recent film projects, but he is just as likely to discuss his liberal causes, such as Darfur, the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, or his political views.

An Excellent Week of Guests to Follow

stay human jon batiste

Jon Batiste and Stay Human

On the first episode on Tuesday, Colbert will also introduce his bandleader and Late Show band, Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human. A group of young musicians who recently graduated from Juilliard, Stay Human is modern day New Orleans big band soul music, with a tuba, drums, saxophone and Jon Batiste with his magic fingers on keys. The music is sure to also include some special guests throughout the week. On the second episode, Wednesday September 9, 2015, the guests will include the actress Scarlett Johansson, whose recent films credits include Lucy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Under the Skin, and the voice in Her. In addition, that episode will feature Elon Musk, the business magnate and entrepreneur who invented Tesla Motors and has envisioned the high speed form of transport known as the Hyperloop. There will also be an interview and performance by Kendrick Lamar, the rapper and hip hop artist from California. On Wednesday, September 10, 2015, another transportation business leader will take the stage, this time the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick. Uber is the car-sharing service that has been disrupting the taxi industry all over the world, allowing customers to request a car to their doorstep with the tap of an iPhone, and to pay seamlessly with the use of technology. That episode will also feature a performance by Toby Keith, the country music singer and songwriter.

Final Announced Guests So Far on Thursday, September 11th

Thus far, the last day of announced guests is for the third episode: Thursday, September 11, 2015. One guest will be the comedienne Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer, whose own show airs on Comedy Central, where The Colbert Report aired until recently. Schumer also has a wide release movie out now in theatres, Trainwreck, and is reportedly co-writing and co-starring in another feature film with her good friend Jennifer Lawrence. After Schumer, Colbert will be joined by Stephen King, the famous author of horror and suspense novels, whose books have sold over 350 million copies. In total he has published 54 novels, which includes seven under his pseudonym Richard Bachman as well as six non-ficiton books, in addition to almost 200 short stories. There will also be an interview and performance by Troubled Waters. As for the Friday show, the guests have not yet been announced, but some fantasy casting reports suggest that Bill Cosby may be among the guests.  Overall, this is an exciting first week of episodes, with many more sure to come.

“The Ruins of Civilization” Added to MTC Season

Amidst Criticism That The Season Lacked Diversity

The Ruins of Civilization will be a world premiere Manhattan Theatre Club production in spring 2016. It is written a British playwright named Penelope Skinner, whose previous plays include The Village Bike (staged at MCC last year), Fred’s Diner, and Eigengrau. Skinner has received several awards for promising young playwrights, and she recently co-wrote the screenplay to the feature film How I Live Now.

Penelope Skinner

Penelope Skinner

However, the buzz about the announcement of her world premiere at MTC was not focused on her precocious accomplishments; rather, it has been squarely aimed at the discussion of how she is a woman. The reason is that Lynne Meadow, the artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club, had previously announced seven of the eight plays of their 2015 to 2016 season, all seven of which are written by white men. This was revealed in a post last week in American Theatre Magazine. There was immediate outcry online, with prominent playwright Paula Vogel tweeting “for a woman in theatre who attended Bryn Mawr, where is your sisterhood?” Then the playwright Kristoffer Diaz followed up with a tweet that said he would love to discuss strategies for approaching the goal stated in MTC’s mission to produce works “as diverse as NYC itself.”

Nonetheless, An Excellent MTC Season of Accomplished Playwrights

Lynne Meadow

Lynne Meadow

Manhattan Theatre Club produces both Broadway and Off-Broadway. Their Broadway season will kick off with Sam Shepherd’s 1983 play Fool for Love at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, starring Sam Rockwell and Nina Arianda. That play is directed by Daniel Aukin, who staged a rendition at last summer’s Williamstown Theatre Festival. The next Broadway show at the Friedman Theatre, which will open in January 2016, is Richard Greenberg’s play Our Mother’s Brief Affair, directed by Lynne Meadow and starring Linda Lavin. In April 2016, MTC will produce a Broadway production of Florian Zeller’s new play The Father, starring Frank Langella in a production directed by Doug Hughes. The Off-Broadway offerings, presented at New York City Center Stages I and II, include Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire directed by David Hyde Pierce and starring Holland Taylor, Rachel Dratch, and Marylouise Burke; Important Hats of the 20th Century by Nick Jones and directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel; John Patrick Shanley’s new play Prodigal Son, directed by Shanley and starring Robert Sean Leonard; and Nick Payne’s play Incognito.

Two of the Eight Plays are Directed by Women

The recent announcement of Penelope Skinner’s The Ruins of Civilization was made in haste due to the backlash, and the director has not yet been fully confirmed, but it is slated to be Lila Neugebauer. Skinner declared she felt strongly that a woman was best to direct this play. The only other female director of the season is Lynne Meadow herself, who is to direct Richard Greenberg’s Our Mother’s Brief Affair. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the season came together with all white playwrights and only one woman. In the past four seasons, 43% of the plays were written by women and people of color. Over the past ten years, there have been three seasons at MTC where no playwrights were female, but in five of those years at least half of the playwrights were women. This includes last year, where Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway was brought to Broadway amidst similar criticism that MTC continually failed to produce a play by a female playwright on their Broadway stage. Also over the past four years, 28 of the 49 commissions that MTC made for new plays went to women and minorities.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 8/23/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A Mild Slump This Week on Broadway

In the week ending August 23, 2015, Broadway continued to bring in lower grosses than the week before. These dips were modest and nothing to be alarmed about; rather, they just indicate that the summer season is winding to a close. Fewer tourists are around, more people are spending their leisure time outdoors rather than indoors to catch the last weeks of summer, and most importantly, most of the currently running shows have been on for a while, and all the new fall shows will soon begin performances. Of the 24 shows that had performances last week, only 4 saw an increase in sales. The highest increase was seen by Finding Neverland with the humble increase of $23,112. Even smaller 4-digit increases were seen by Something Rotten!, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Amazing Grace. On the other hand, even the biggest decreases were not huge. The biggest dip was seen by The Lion King, with a decrease of $178,877 bringing the weekly gross to $1,986,190. Next, Wicked went down by $161,063 to bring in a weekly gross of $1,751,974. Interestingly, those are also the two highest grossing shows of last week, in that order as well. Therefore, the shows with the biggest luxury to lose comparative box office dollars saw the biggest loss, serving to equalize the grosses slightly. All in all, the industry saw a collective decrease of $993,291 from the week before.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Shows Small Increase as Run Winds Down

Last week, Hedwig and the Angry Inch was one of only four show to show an increase in ticket sales from the week before. Though this increase was slight – an increase of $9,618 from $400,061 last week to $409,679 this most recent week – this still demonstrates that fans are becoming increasingly eager to catch the show before it winds down next month. It was just announced that Hedwig and the Angry Inch will take its final bow on Sunday, September 13, 2015. The role of Hedwig is currently played by Taye Diggs. The revival was initiated with Neil Patrick Harris in the title role, and after Andrew Rannells and Michael C. Hall had a go of it, the title role was then played by the show’s creator, John Cameron Mitchell. This was an historical moment on Broadway, with Mitchell stepping into the shoes he had envisioned decades prior, when the show ran only Off-Broadway. This production has caused a lot of fanfare and celebration, as America and the world have evolved to such a degree that this irreverent musical about a transvestite in East Berlin could be welcomed onto the wider Broadway stage. This past week, the average paid admission was $77.31, with a top ticket price of $248.00. The average capacity across the eight performances was 75.2%, and the box office gross represented 57.75% of the show’s gross potential.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending August 23, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-08-23-15

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn  %Capacity  AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $511,816 6,303 86.87% $81.20
ALADDIN $1,720,395 13,756 99.57% $125.07
AMAZING GRACE $308,474 5,062 54.45% $60.94
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,241,467 11,692 87.05% $106.18
BEAUTIFUL $886,955 7,347 89.51% $120.72
CHICAGO $547,645 6,963 80.59% $78.65
FINDING NEVERLAND $1,011,088 10,571 87.86% $95.65
FUN HOME $749,863 5,979 101.00% $125.42
HAMILTON $1,456,753 10,708 101.32% $136.04
HAND TO GOD $255,020 3,567 57.76% $71.49
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $409,679 5,299 75.17% $77.31
JERSEY BOYS $579,920 6,420 65.35% $90.33
KINKY BOOTS $858,668 8,861 77.78% $96.90
LES MISÉRABLES $741,136 9,187 81.50% $80.67
MAMMA MIA! $978,350 9,390 100.32% $104.19
MATILDA $937,915 10,854 94.75% $86.41
ON THE TOWN $395,379 7,822 52.17% $50.55
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $1,006,235 10,740 80.53% $93.69
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,443,333 8,735 102.43% $165.24
THE KING AND I $991,502 7,386 88.18% $134.24
THE LION KING $1,986,190 13,576 100.06% $146.30
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $928,397 10,394 80.95% $89.32
WICKED $1,751,974 13,912 93.17% $125.93
Totals $22,457,929 211,799 84.49% $101.95

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015

Nederlander Sells Air Rights Above Neil Simon Theatre

Air Rights Go For Record $450 per Square Foot

neil simon theatreThe Nederlander Organization owns 9 of the 40 Broadway theatres, which makes it the second largest landlord on Broadway after the Shubert Organization, which owns 17. One of these nine is the Neil Simon Theatre, which is located at 250 West 52nd Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. Due to a zoning law break that was passed several years ago, Broadway theatre owners have the ability to sell the air rights above their landmark theatres – that is, literally the air above their buildings by the square foot. The reason for this ability to sell air is due to the landmark status of the theatres; most of the old Broadway theatres were built at a time when Times Square consisted mostly of three or four story buildings. Now that the area is predominantly made up of skyscrapers often in the realm of 20 stories high, the landlords of Broadway theatres were faced with a situation where they owned the air above their theatres but were unable to build into it. Therefore, a relaxed law allowed a marketplace for these air rights, so that the owners could profit from their real estate without violating the sanctity of the old theatre buildings. Of course, the landlords do not have an interest in demolishing the theatres, but they do have an interest in making millions of dollars off of selling air.

Neil Simon Air Rights Purchased to Build New Skyscraper on Seventh Avenuetimes square

Though the Neil Simon Theatre is on 52nd Street, the law allows the theatre owners to sell their air rights to anyone in the theatre district, defined as the West side of Manhattan from 40th to 57th Streets. Therefore, the buyer for these air rights is a consortium – made up of Soho Properties, MPH Real Estate, and Hampshire Hotels Group – that plans to use the rights to build a skyscraper on 7th Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets. The new hotel will cost $300 million, and rise to 29 stories, or 400 feet, high. Additional purchases of air rights in recent years have gone for quite a lot of money, but $450 per square foot is a record. Specifically, the almost 20,000 square feet of air was sold for $8.9 million. When the air rights were first made available, there was not much interest, and they would sometimes sell in the range of $100 per square foot. More recently, the Shubert Organization has sold air rights for $225 per square foot, with pending transactions in amounts over $300 per square foot. However, this recent Nederlander deal of $450 per square foot is the highest air rights sale yet by a Broadway theatre.

Sale Benefits Theatre, Both on Broadway and Beyond

The ability for Broadway landlords to sell their unusable air rights is a sort of payback for the landmark status of their buildings, allowing them to make money off their valuable property without destroying the buildings. This money often goes to much needed repairs of the buildings, so that they can keep them in beautiful condition for the variety of plays and musicals that rely on the old buildings to be in a good state. However, there are also other tangential benefits to the theatrical community at large. Any buyer of theatrical air rights must additionally contribute to a fund to foster the development of new theatrical work. This fund is overseen by the Theater Subdistrict Council, who meet regularly to decide how to allocate the money. For every square foot purchased of theatrical air rights, the buyer must donate $17.60 to the fund. Thus far, the fund has dispersed around $5 million for theatrical development.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 8/16/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“Hamilton” Continues to Reap It In

In the week ending August 16, 2015, Hamilton was the fourth highest grossing show on Broadway, only coming in behind The Lion King, Wicked, and Aladdin. This week, it brought in nearly its highest gross yet at $1,459,314, which represents 109.32% of its gross potential. This was the fifth full week of performances. The record for their weekly gross so far took place two weeks prior, the week ending August 2, 2015, when it brought in $1,490,816. That represented 111.67% of the show’s gross potential. In addition, for the first two weeks of only seven performances as opposed to the usual eight, the show brought in a lower overall gross but a higher percentage of gross potential, at 110.30% and 111.51% of the show’s gross potential for the first two weeks of the run, respectively. Still, this past week demonstrated that Hamilton is a bona fide hit, as sales continue to be strong after the show’s opening night, when it received a round of rave reviews from critics far and wide. This past week, the top ticket price was $275.00, and the average paid admission was $136.31, which is a big jump from last week’s average ticket price of $117.99. It continues to be very tough to score a ticket to this hot show, and the box office figures are demonstrating this fact.

Otherwise a Slower Week on Broadway

Other than Hamilton’s continued financial success, this past week demonstrated a decrease in overall ticket sales for the 25 shows that were running. Of these 25 shows, only four demonstrated an increase in ticket sales from the week before: Hamilton went up by $204,151, Amazing Grace went up by $26,511, Mamma Mia! went up by $15,995, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch went up by $3,687. Other than Hamilton, all of these increases are fairly negligible. Overall, the entire industry saw a decrease in ticket sales of $1,317,989, which is a decrease of 5.36% from the week before. The biggest decreases were seen by Aladdin which went down by $299,545 but still grossed the impressive figure of $1,778,618, Penn & Teller on Broadway which went down by $268,702 in its final week of performances, and The Lion King which went down by $168,470 but still brought in the highest weekly gross of any show of $2,165,067. Furthermore, six figure decreases were seen by The Book of Mormon and Matilda. Therefore, though the overall industry saw a relative downturn, it is mainly the high grossing shows that went down in ticket sales, rather than the low grossing shows reaching a point of desperation. As the summer is coming to a close, the high tourist season will also be wrapping up in the next few weeks. As the fall shows begin to open, we will see a switch towards more New Yorkers attending the theatre, and an increased interest in straight plays rather than just the high grossing musicals.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending August 16, 2015:Broadway show ticket analysis 8-16-15

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn  %Capacity  AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $517,799 6,390 88.07% $81.03
ALADDIN $1,778,618 13,822 100.04% $128.68
AMAZING GRACE $298,798 5,218 56.13% $57.26
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,286,907 11,856 88.27% $108.54
BEAUTIFUL $945,696 7,764 94.59% $121.81
CHICAGO $570,965 7,317 84.69% $78.03
FINDING NEVERLAND $987,966 10,557 87.74% $93.58
FUN HOME $761,867 5,994 101.25% $127.10
HAMILTON $1,459,314 10,706 101.31% $136.31
HAND TO GOD $273,184 3,921 63.49% $69.67
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $400,061 5,303 75.23% $75.44
JERSEY BOYS $599,028 6,524 66.41% $91.82
KINKY BOOTS $882,154 9,103 79.91% $96.91
LES MISÉRABLES $787,374 9,631 85.44% $81.75
MAMMA MIA! $983,331 9,400 100.43% $104.61
MATILDA $1,002,243 11,077 96.69% $90.48
ON THE TOWN $435,180 8,127 54.21% $53.55
PENN & TELLER ON BROADWAY $1,555,706 9,399 71.90% $122.71
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $1,005,030 10,995 82.45% $91.41
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,448,473 8,689 101.89% $166.70
THE KING AND I $1,074,119 7,904 94.36% $135.90
THE LION KING $2,165,067 13,128 96.76% $164.92
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,015,752 11,191 87.16% $90.77
WICKED $1,913,037 14,845 97.10% $128.87
Totals $25,006,928 226,453 85.95% $104.44

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015

“Penn & Teller” Completes Its Limited Engagement

Magic Show Recouped In Its Penultimate Week

penn and teller posterOn Sunday August 16, 2015, Penn & Teller on Broadway played its last performance at the Marquis Theatre. The famous magician duo came to Broadway for a strictly limited engagement of 6 weeks, including one partial week of previews which began on July 7, 2015. The official opening night took place on July 12, 2015. Throughout this short run, the show sold very well. There was a huge gross potential in the large Marquis Theatre, and the show never brought in more than 82.52% of this potential in any given week. Still, with more than a week to go in their six-week run, the producers announced that Penn & Teller on Broadway was a financial hit, having recouped its initial capitalization of $2.85 million. This amount is quite low for a Broadway show, but six weeks is extraordinarily low for the duration of a run on Broadway. Therefore, it is no small feat that this magic show managed to enter profits during its run. The best-selling week took place in the week ending August 9, 2015, when 12,145 people paid to see the show across the eight performances. The only other shows to bring in as many audience members were the best-selling musicals Wicked, Aladdin, The Lion King, and the newer show An American in Paris.

Overall Excellent Sales but a Downturn in the Final Weekpenn and teller

Over the course of the six-week run, Penn & Teller on Broadway made a steady climb in ticket sales. However, in the final week of the run, the week ending August 16, 2015, the show took a dip in sales. This is unusual, as most other shows manage to attract more audience members in their final week due to the last chance opportunity to see the show. However, everything about this show was unusual, from the short six-week duration of the show, to the fact that it is not a traditional play or musical, but instead a magic spectacle straight from Las Vegas. In the final week of sales, the show still brought in the impressive gross of $1,153,386, but this is a decrease of $268,702 from the week before, a 21.0% drop. People did pay more per ticket (the average paid admission went up from $117.09 the previous week to $122.71 in the final week), and yet the number of audience members went down (from the peak number of 12,145 to the lowest number of the run, 9,399 people). It is unclear why the final week demonstrated a decrease in interest to see the show. Perhaps the number of individuals interested in paying top dollar for a show in New York that is more suited for Las Vegas was saturated after just over 5 weeks. If this is the case, then the producers made the right choice in scheduling the show for a 6-week engagement.

Mixed Reviews that Did Not Sway Ticket Buyers’ Interest

After the show opened, there were mixed reviews from critics. Some were critical of the fact that the show was made up of seemingly simple tricks, such as the classic of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. However, this was clearly a crowd pleaser, and audiences did not shy away from rushing to the Marquis Theatre. Immediately after this run, the duo plans to return to Las Vegas where they have been performing together for 40 years. The six-week run was the longest break they could finagle from their producers at the Rio Hotel and Casino. Still, as demonstrated by the downturn in the last week of ticket sales, this may have also been the right move from a financial perspective.