Does a revival’s success depend on the success of the original?

My Producer-lunch-partner and I were in between bites of our Caesar Salads at Joe Allen’s when our conversation turned to flops. Most likely because the walls are covered with posters of them.

“I bet you this lunch that revivals of flops are also most likely to be flops too,” he said.

It was an interesting question.  Can a new production and concept of a musical take it from flop to financial success?  Does timing have something to do with a show’s “hit” status or is a piece that doesn’t work doomed to always be a piece that doesn’t work?

Questions like these fascinate me in my continuing search to try to moneyball Broadway the best one can (we’ll never be able to guarantee a show’s success or not, but we can find indicators that tell us how risky a Broadway investment is or not – and then we gotta go on our gut).

So I chewed the last few bits of my Chicken Caesar Salad super fast and bolted back to my office to start digging through the data.

My crackerjack research team (including my Assistant Lindsay and her Assistant Bridget) dug through the last 50 years of Broadway musicals only (no plays here – it was just too much data to parse and would have been unreliable in our judgement of whether many recouped or not) and pulled out all the shows that have had revivals since (not everything gets revived on Broadway, you know – Metropolis anyone?). Then, we got rid of the non-profits, special events, super limited engagements, Forever Tango revivals, etc., etc.  And for shows with multiple revivals, we looked at the most recent revival.

Once we had our sample, we googled our butts off, asked industry insiders, and even used some good ol’ common sense once or twice to judge whether or not a show recouped.

And here are the results (Data Drumroll please!):

Of Broadway Musicals that have had a revival . . .

  • 28.95% of the time, both productions recouped.
  • 23.68% of the time, neither production recouped.
  • 47.37% of the time, one recouped and not the other.

What’s interesting is that if you drill that 47.37% down further?  You discover that 100% of those productions that recouped were the original, not the revival.

So, without question, a show’s commercial success the first time around is much more likely to lead to commercial success the next time around.

That said, I think this stat is slightly skewed by the fact that costs for mounting shows are much higher than they were in the times of the original productions, so the degree of difficulty to recoup a show is greater than it was.

Still, even with that, and with a slight margin of error in looking at the data, there’s no question of the statistical advantage that hit shows have when revived again.

Think about that the next time you’re at Joe Allen’s and thinking, “I should do a revival of Via Galactica!”


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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.