How Broadway shows can take advantage of a Fall opening for the Tony Awards.

Back in 2009, I wrote a blog that proved that shows that opened in the Spring had a better shot at winning a Tony Award over shows that opened in the Fall. You can read that blog here.

Then, in 2015, I updated it with more recent data . . . and found the same conclusion. Check that one out here.

So, naturally, the takeaway is . . . if you want to stack the Tony odds in your favor, open in the Spring.

But not so fast, Captain Jack. It ain’t that easy.

These days, choosing “when” you open is even more difficult than choosing “where” you open. Getting a theater is hard enough, but if you manage to get one, choosing your start date, even your season, can be even more challenging since so many shows are willing to jump in and open at any time. (Add in the schedule of an in-demand creative team, and it’s amazing shows happen at all.)

What do you do if you have a fall opening, and you really want/need a Tony Award in order for your show to be a success?

Fret not, because I believe there is some serious upside to a Fall opening nowadays, you just have to make sure you take advantage of what you’ve got to work with (it was actually a Fall opening for Once on this Island that I believe is one of the reasons we were able to win the big one).

Here are three advantages to a Fall opening:

  1. Tony Voters can see you twice.

It has become commonplace for shows that open earlier in the season to invite Voters back to see their show again much closer to the voting deadline. And if you can get the voters to take you up on this . . . well, two impressions are much better than one. And if your show opens in April, there ain’t no way you’re getting these folks to come back again. Not only will they have just seen you, but they’ve got 140 other shows to see before the deadline. So forget that. I like the strategy of inviting voters early, and then inviting them back again, even before nominations come out, so they have more time in their schedule to set up a second viewing.

  1. You start out at the front of the pack.

So few shows open in the Fall these days that if you’re one of those shows, you’re like a horse that bursts out of the starting gate to an early lead. And every show after has to top you. You set the pace. Grabbing that early lead can put you at a big advantage, rather than opening right in the midst of when all the other shows are opening, when voters have more to compare you to. Just remember, if you do grab that early lead, you gotta work really hard to keep it. Because by opening earlier, your race is longer, which means your horse could tire a bit early (metaphor translation = you’re going to need more marketing and advertising to keep you ahead).

  1. Your Tony Campaign can start right after you open.

While our Tony Awards campaigns are not as elaborate/expensive as Hollywood’s campaigns to win an Oscar, they’re getting there. The Spring shows barely have time to think about a campaign before they have to launch theirs. But you, you with the Fall show, you can not only design your campaign, but you can launch it much, much earlier . . . not only through advertising but by positioning your shows/performers at industry events, seeding press stories about your various elements, etc. Ask a politician running for office if they’d rather have 6 months to campaign for office or one month and they’ll tell you they want twelve months. Use the time to tell your story of why your show deserves a Tony.

Statistics may tell us the ways things have been, but that doesn’t mean they have to be the way they are. And if you can’t change your show’s schedule, change your thinking about that schedule and find a way to make it work for you.

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We’ve got a ton of Tony Winners speaking at my SuperConference this year. Hear from them firsthand how they got that trophy and pick up tips on how you can start your path to the podium too.  Click here.

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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.