3 Reasons why Off Broadway is about to boom: Part I

A few months ago, I blog-dicted that the Broadway market was about to experience a correction, based on my analysis of sales trends over the last several decades.

Today I’m going the other way, and predicting that Off Broadway is about to go through some good ‘n plenty boom times.

Sort of.

Unfortunately, my predictions aren’t based on economic data, because Off Broadway, well, it don’t do numbers so good.

There’s no public reporting of Off Broadway grosses, which is partly due to the diversity in the market itself.  For one, Off Broadway is a wide open field, with shows that play one or two nights a week qualifying next to shows with full eight show a week schedules.  There are non profits and commercials, shows that charge $20 next to shows that charge $100, and you’re technically Off Broadway if you have between 100 seats and 499 seats (that’s a 5x difference – you don’t see that kind of spread in Broadway theaters).  It’s hard to find all the Producers of these shows to give you their numbers, never mind to make sense of them.

So, to make predictions like the one I’m making today, I have to resort to good ol’ circumstantial evidence, and my noggin (as well as the experience my office has in producing and GMing about 20+ shows).

Even though I’m numberless, which for a guy with my personality is like walking naked through Times Square on a really, really cold day, I’ve come up with three reasons why I think Off Broadway is going to boom over the next five years.

Sort of (I’ll explain that later).

Here we go.

1.  Good ol’ Fashioned Trickle Down Economics

Broadway is experiencing a gold rush.  There are five shows that did over $1.5 million two weeks ago.  $1.5 million!  It wasn’t too long ago we were talking about “the million dollar club” for shows that broke the million dollar mark.  Now we’ve got shows pushing two!  And when business is good, and when Universal Pictures says that Wicked will be its most profitable venture ever, more people want to get into the game, and that fills theaters.  And when theaters are full, a waiting line forms.  Like at your favorite restaurant.  The thing is, Producers are hungry, hungry people.  And just like when you’re waiting for a table at your favorite brunch spot, if you’re hungry enough, you’re going to jump off that line and eat somewhere else, even if it wasn’t in your plan.  And I expect that a lot of Producers who have high quality shows and enough money in the bank but maybe lack the political clout to get a theater, will do just that.  And hey, as you’ll see below, I think it’s a great strategy.  Because while Off Broadway may be struggling, if you build great shows, the audience will come, no matter what the size of the theater.

2.  Look Who’s Your Landlord!

This summer, Broadway’s biggest landlord became Off Broadway’s biggest landlord.  The almighty Shubert Organization acquired New World Stages, which put two more 499 seaters into their Off Broadway portfolio (along with the newly renamed Stage 42), in addition to a 199 and two 350s.  Now, if you’ve got a show, and you can’t get a Broadway theater, one way to get in front of this big Broadway landlord would be to take one of their Off Broadway venues . . . just to get them to come to opening night.  You’d have a new business relationship where one didn’t exist before, right?  I expect a lot of folks to utilize this strategy, which will fill more Off Broadway stages.

3.  The JOBS Act

While it’s still not finalized (thank you, bureaucracy), the not-so-recently passed JOBS Act has crowdfunding provisions.  Because of my experience with Godspell and because I actually was interviewed by the Office of Congressional Oversight when they were crafting JOBS, I’ve had lots of questions from the press over the years about whether I thought JOBS would revolutionize the way people raise money on Broadway.  My answer?  No.  But it will revolutionize Off Broadway.  JOBS caps the amount of money people can raise at $1mm.  Can’t do Broadway shows for $1mm.  But Off Broadway shows?  For sure.  With JOBS so many more people will be able to get out there and raise the money that they should have always been allowed to raise . . . from anyone, regardless of their net worth.  It has always driven me crazy that someone on governmental assistance can walk into any casino (which is probably only an hour away from where they live) and plunk down their whole life savings on “Red 14” but a professional who makes $100,000 a year can’t invest $10,000 or even $5,000 in a show . . . even if that show is produced by a family member.  Ok, enough of my small-businesses-are-the-backbone-of-America rant, the point is, more options for fundraising will create more Off Broadway shows, for shizzle.

So there are my three reasons why Off Broadway is going to boom.

Why the “sort of” disclaimer at the beginning of this post?

Well, that deserves its own blog.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s follow-up, right here.  Same blog-time, same blog-station.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.