Are we in the Independent Theater Era on Broadway?

The mid to late 90s ushered in a new age of filmmaking.  It was the era of the “indie,” as movies outside the traditional studio model, many of which were lower budget, featured fewer stars and had more artsy themes, started to dominate the box office and the awards shows.

They were made for less but could gross just as much as a tentpole, making their profit margins higher while being more adventuresome than their big studio counterparts.

Many would say that it saved the art of filmmaking.

As I looked over the grosses for last week and thought about the shows on the boards, I couldn’t help but wonder (with a smile), are we at the onset of the Independent Era here on Broadway?

Just look at some of the shows that are crushing it . . .First, of course, we have Hamilton . . . a piece born entirely out of the brain of one individual.

But then we have the Best Musical winner, Dear Evan Hansen, doing $1.9mm, after its “star” left the building, and certainly not with typical Broadway subject matter.  Oh, and has anyone realized that there are only 8 people in that show?  They don’t even have enough for a 5-on-5 Basketball game, never mind a giant tap number.

Come From Away?  Yep.

And oh wait, what about this season’s The Band’s Visit, which just did $1.3mm!

Sure, sure, Disney is still crushing it, and the superstar-driven revivals will spit out their sliver of profit . . . but the real art AND commerce is in these independent shows.

You know what else about those shows I just mentioned above?  They are all produced by individuals, not by corporations (and I know all those people calling the shots on the shows . . . and they are strong, visionary, take-no-prisoners people who wouldn’t let a tank get in the way of what they want to do).

So yeah, we’re in the Independent Era. And it’s awesome.

You know what happened after the Independents started crushing it in Hollywood?  The big studios started to buy them out.

Could that happen here?

(Speaking of the Independent Era – subscribe to the blog here to make sure you get next week’s write-up delivered straight to your inbox – because I’ve got a warning for those who may have gotten too big for their britches.)

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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.