Are Broadway shows getting shorter? Look at these graphs!

If I made you place a bet on whether the headline of this blog was true, I’m sure most of you would say yes, Broadway shows are getting shorter.

You can kind of smell it, right?  It just feels like you’re hearing those magic words “90 minutes/no intermission” more often.  You’re getting home in time for your favorite 10 PM show, never mind the 11 PM News.

And yeah, spoiler alert, you’re right.

But how right?

Unfortunately, the running-time records don’t go back far enough to see real trends, so my capable Doctors of Data and I decided to examine the number of 2 Act shows, 1 Act shows and (!) 3+ Act shows (remember those?) over the last thirty years.

Ready to see the results?

Graph #1: The Percentage of ALL New Broadway Shows that are 1, 2 and 3+ Acts.

new shows graph

Pretty amazing, right?  There has been an increase of 20 percentage points in the number of one act shows on Broadway.  But what’s even more interesting to me is the trend line.  The decrease in the number of two acts and the increase in the number of one acts is consistent over the past three decades, as those lines get closer and closer together.

But this graph encompasses all shows on Broadway.  Let’s drill it down between Plays and Musicals to see which one is affecting the increase of the one-acters more.

Graph #2: The Percentage of New Broadway Musicals that are 1, 2 and 3+ Acts.

new musicals graph

And now the Plays.

Graph #3: The Percentage of New Broadway Plays that are 1, 2 and 3+ Acts.

new plays graph

You probably could have guessed this too . . . but I bet you wouldn’t have guessed how close the # of two-acters and the # of one-acters are.

So what happens in the next 30 years?  Do the two lines cross?  Well, the trends sure say they will.

Will the two act show go the way of the three act?  Does this help or hurt the theater?  Will more people come if shows are shorter?  Can Authors say less with less time?

My thoughts . . .

Yes, shows will continue to get shorter.  It’s part of a trend I awkwardly call the “YouTube-ization” of our society.   When YouTube burst on the scene, we started demanding our entertainment in shorter bursts.  Same with the written word. Articles became blogs became tweets, etc.

Will there be exceptions?  For sure.  But in general, to keep pace with what our audiences want (and also what their lives will allow), you can expect to no longer hear “90 minutes no intermission” . . . because that will be the norm.

Your thoughts?


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –

Interested in learning more about topics like this? CLICK HERE to join The TheaterMakers Studio, an online community, certification training program, and resource for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and theater makers of all kinds!

Keep your show organized with the Theatermaker's fool-proof management system

Improve your success rate for getting produced with daily strategy tips.

Send me the system

Related Posts


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.