5 Things The Tony Awards can learn from The Oscars.
They say a billion people watched the Academy Awards. And I was one of them.
Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. Over 43 million watch, in real time. And then many others watch later, in clips, etc.
By contrast, our little engine that could of an awards show, the Tony Awards, gets an audience of 7 million.
Just imagine . . . for a second . . . if we could grab, steal . . . or even borrow . . . just a simple million of those Academy Awards viewers for our show. What do you think the conversion rate would be on that 1mm? How many more tickets would we sell? How many more shows could get produced?
But how the heck do we get them?
Whenever I’m envious of a business model or situation, I try to check that emotion and ask myself, “What can I learn from that industry’s/company’s/person’s position?”
And as I turned slowly green on Sunday night watching the Academy Awards, I had to head off that jealousy at the pass on several occasions, and say, “What can I learn from them?”
I came up with five things that the Tony Awards (and when I say the Tony Awards, I really mean “Broadway”) can learn from the Academy Awards. So here we go . . .
1. GET RIDICULOUS ON THE RED CARPET
The interesting thing about the Oscars is that you only get to hear a few of the movie stars that you love so much speak (only the winners, right?). By having super-sized red carpet footage, we get to hear all sorts of things from the nominees, non-nominees, etc. that are sometimes more interesting than the show itself. We could use some more red carpet footage for sure. Show our stars, yes, and show the movie stars that are yet to be Broadway stars, too. Oh – and let’s get some unique, crazy comedians/personalities hosting that coverage. I don’t mean one of our regular reporters. Let’s get someone who’s a show unto themselves. It’s not a coincidence that red carpet coverage took off when Joan Rivers started doing it.
2. GIVE THE FUTURE STARS THE SPOTLIGHT FOR A SECOND
For the past few years, the Academy has held a contest called TEAM OSCAR that gives college students a chance to appear on the awards show, get a big shout out, and then deliver the trophies to the presenters (no more cliche leggy (expensive) super models). This year applicants had to make a 60 second film based on the subject, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” The winners and the thousands of applicants are not only the future filmmakers of the world, they are the future audience of the world.
So why not involve our future entertainers and our future audience as well? The League just took over the National High School Musical Theater Awards. What if we involved the winners of those awards in the telecast? I’m not saying give them a juicy solo (maybe?) but a shout-out and taking the place of a super model? Sure. This is what I call an EAI – Easily Actionable Item – and I don’t see a downside, or a cost issue. Hope it happens.
3. IT”S ABOUT FASHION
So many people tune into the Oscars to see what the eff-ashion people are wearing! I think we gotta follow “suit.” That means our actors, directors, and presenters need to go a little further with what they wear. We know some of those Academy Awards outfits are solely designed to get attention. I sometimes think people wear the most hideous things imaginable to get ON the worst dressed list. All press = good press, right? If I was a press rep, I’d start pushing my people to go a little more nuts with what they wear. And if I was a producer of the show, I’d push the press agents to push their clients to get . . . well . . . theatrical.
4. A TONY AWARD FOR A MOVIE?
What about Best Musical Movie? What about Best Filmed Theatrical Experience? Ok, these aren’t great ideas, but with the number of movie-musicals, and more and more shows being filmed, there’s gotta be a way to tie our two worlds together. I’m firmly admitting I don’t have the answer, but let me put it this way. More people saw the Into the Woods movie than watch the Tony Awards. Where is that audience?
5. IN MEMORY
There was some backlash about the lack of the In Memoriam segment in the 2014 Tonys that has been typically a part of the telecast. And while I definitely want more and more performances on our awards shows (because that’s what the audience wants), I always stop what I’m eating or drinking or tweeting to watch and take in the artists and their art. It’s a great moment of reflection, and reminds me how important what artists . . . and what we . . . do is. And I think not only does it pay respect to those that have paved the way for us, but it also tells our audience that what we do is very, very, did I say very, important. Nope. Essential.
Broadway doesn’t have the distribution power of film (yet). We can’t be seen all over the world, simultaneously. So our audience will never be as big, and our awards show audience will never be as big.
But we can get better. We can get bigger. Without getting jealous.
What did you think of the show? What do you think we can learn? And what do you think we can do to make our show better?
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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.