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.

‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.

Book Of Mormon Tickets Push New Price of $500 Per Ticket and Raise the Very Lowest Ticket Price to $149

Book Of Mormon

Book Of Mormon Sets Broadway Ticket Price Record

It’s already the highest priced ticket on Broadway and regularly has the highest “average paid attendance” (last week it was $191.55), but in a bid to further thwart ticket brokers, recoup some of the profit for the show’s investors, and raise money to finance the touring productions, The Book of Mormon has set a new ticket pricing schedule that raises the stakes in its premium and cheapest seat ticket prices to new Broadway ticket price records:

Premium orchestra seat tickets during popular show times are now $477 + fees. At less popular times, these seats are now $352 + fees.

Even the very back rows in the mezzanine, which were previously the only bargain at Mormon at $69 each, have been raised to $149 per ticket (these tickets are set to increase again to $159 after July 2013).  During the holidays and other popular times, the “worst seats in the theatre” have been raised to an astonishing $255. This puts the difference between the best premium seat in the house and the very worst seat at just $222, a difference of only 50%, which sets another Broadway record for lack of pricing diversity. In a bid to not completely divorce themselves from lower priced tickets, Book Of Mormon does still offer sixteen “limited legroom” seats in the very back of the mezzanine for $69, but these seats are not available online or over the telephone – and even in person,  they are sold a year in advance and for the the last eight attempts by this writer, no such tickets have been available at the box office.

All Book of Mormon tickets remain sold-out for a rolling year. But the official face value of Book Of Mormon tickets (which is somewhat academic) is now:

  • Amex Premium Ticket Desk tickets are $252.00 – $477.00
  • Select Mid-Premium Seating tickets are $227.00 – $299.00
  • Select Premium Seating tickets are $352.00 – $477.00
  • Select Premium Seating tickets are $477.00
  • Premium Seats: $352 (off-peak) – $477 (peak)
  • Regular Orchestra and Front Mezzanine Seats: $252 (off-peak) – $299 (peak)
  • Rear Mezzanine Seats: $149 (off-peak, raising to $169) – $252 (peak)

telecharge

The Book of Mormon operates on a rolling-year ticket purchase, so all well-placed regular priced tickets are sold out a year in advance.  Each week the box office makes another set of tickets available to buyers (usually a week’s worth), most of which are purchased by ticket brokers (who are the only people that would normally buy tickets a year in advance). This leaves only the less well placed ticket inventory available for the same price, closer to the performance date. For example: a ticket for a seat in Mezzanine row J on the month prior to the performance is the same price as a seat in Orchestra side row A, but only when sold a year in advance.

Ticket brokers have been actively speculating on The Book of Mormon tickets since the show received its bevy of awards at the 2011 Tonys, which drove up interest in the show by leaps and bounds. Recently, Book of Mormon tickets have become so hot that ticket brokers have even resorted to sending their staff down to the daily ticket lotteries because of the tremendous profits that can be made by selling a $32 front row seat for $400 after winning the ticket lottery – in some cases selling the tickets to clients before winning them (this is known as naked short-selling in the stock market).  Other ticket brokers can be seen on the day of the show selling these ‘recently acquired’ tickets outside the theater 30 minutes prior to the performance. Brokers have brought their full set of market manipulation techniques to bear through practices like drip feeding or scalp seeding – practices that are illegal in the New York stock market, but perfectly acceptable in the Broadway ticket market. More recently, ticket speculation for The Book Of Mormon has reached a fever pitch and is now starting to look a lot like the 1624 Amsterdam Tulip bubble, which ended disastrously for both the buyers and producers. It’s that speculation bubble that all others are now judged by and Broadway may be heading that way.

Creatively speaking, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre is the perfect size for The Book of Mormon, but from a financial perspective, it’s clear that the size of the theater is drastically limiting the revenue that the show could potentially achieve – see The Book of Mormon on the Broadway ticket sales analysis or the Broadway sales chart.  With only 1100 seats per show and eight shows per week, The Book of Mormon is missing out on a much higher attendance potential when compared with its two cousins in the the top three Broadway show list:  Wicked and The Lion King. (The disparity can actually be seen across all Broadway shows in “total attendance” when compared to Book of Mormon.)

With The Book of Mormon producers clawing back the profit from the ticket brokers by setting the new standard for pricing for this show, ticket brokers will in turn pass these price increases onto their own clients.  This could set the after-market broker ticket pricing on The Book of Mormon on Broadway at $750 to $1000 per ticket, from the $500 to $600 that they are currently on, a potential bubble in the making.

As The Book of Mormon is now the number one show on Broadway, it has within its grasp the opportunity to change the Broadway ticket game by cutting out ticket brokers for good. It’s clear that Mormon no longer needs brokers to promote the show, so if they were to add buyers’ names on tickets and demand government ID to match at the door (much like airline tickets), it could recoup all profit for the show overnight, cut out all ticket brokers, and provide consumers with a more equitable situation than the one currently being experienced with runaway pricing, no available ticket inventory and market manipulation.

Book of Mormon touring shows open at various locations across America in the coming months, but it’s unclear how this will affect sales of the New York Broadway based show tickets.  Ticket brokers may find themselves with unsold inventory, which could potentially crash the whole Broadway ticket market – something that has never happened in the history of Broadway, even dating back to the Broadway ticket speculation that transpired with the reign of Joe LeBlang in the early 1900s, when Broadway theatre had just moved uptown and the Broadway business was in its infancy.

But then again, Broadway ticket revenues weren’t $25 million per week and face value Broadway show tickets weren’t pushing $500.

Nearly 4 Million Raised for Broadway Cares

The 24th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition took place on December 4 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, and during the event it was announced that $3,902,608 was raised for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  Each autumn, Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, as well as national Broadway tours, participate in six weeks of fundraising for the charity, which culminates in the Gypsy of the Year Competition, an event that gives the companies of many shows the opportunity to perform songs, dance pieces, and original comedy sketches.

Ricky Martin, Katie Holmes, and Chita Rivera were on hand to announce the top fundraisers.  The show that raised the most money for BC/EFA was the national touring company of The Book of Mormon, which brought in $478,130.  The top fundraiser on Broadway was the Tony Award-winning musical Once ($232,770), while Avenue Q ($24,940) raised the most among Off-Broadway shows.

The Lion King company was recognized as having the best onstage presentation at the event for a piece that was choreographed by Ray Mercer.  Bring It On: The Musical was the runner-up for its high-flying hip-hop number.

 

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.