How many Best Plays and Best Musicals recoup?

Can you tell that I can’t get enough of the Tony Awards?

The telecast and all of its post-appearance residue are keeping me up at night lately.  It’ll probably take weeks for me to stop wondering things like, “How much did the Nice Work number cost?” and, “How much did Newsies take in at the box office the day after?” or “Will the Tony Committee reinstate the Special Event Tony next year so Mike Tyson can be eligible?”  (“Oh, please, please do,” says Ken.)

And just when I was halfway through composing Mike’s acceptance speech in my head, (“Big thanks to all the people who had my back at Rikers.   Especially you, Big Bruce.  I miss you, ya big pooh bear.”) I said, “Forget about the complicated questions that I probably will never find the answers to,” (kind of like Mike Tyson wondering where rain comes from) “let’s just see how many Best Plays and Best Musical Tony Award Winners recouped.”

So, I went back through the last 30 years of winners (starting with 2011), trolled through recoupment press releases, as well as variety stats,  some common sense, (Yep, I think it’s safe to put Phantom in the Win column) and came up with the percentage of recouped Tony Award Winners that were commercial hits as well.  (I left out non-profits, as you’ll see, and there may be a slight margin of error of 1-2 shows at most.)

Here are the results.

Of the last 30 Best Musical winners, a whopping 21 recouped, 7 did not, 1 ran at a NP for its entire run, and 1 is TBD as it’s still running.

So, of the yes/no’s, that’s 21 out of 28, or a super 75%.

Of the last 30 Best Play winners, another whopping 20 recouped and 7 did not (these numbers are so similarly spooky to the Best Musical figures, I feel like I should link to this).  3 of ’em were at Non-Ps.

That means the play stats are 20 out of 27, or 74%.

Incredibly interesting, isn’t it?

Remember, the anecdotal industry stats put average recoupment rates at about 20-30%.

So, what’s the big takeaway?

Produce a Best Musical or Best Play, and you’ve got a better shot at making money.

I know, I know, genius.  This blog should be a brain teaser at Mensa, it’s so insightful.

I’m sure you expected the above results just like I did.  But did you expect them to be so high?

And if there is this high of a correlation between the awards and commercial success, could we then tear apart the Best Plays and Best Musicals to determine if there are commonalities that could help us choose or develop projects that are more likely to win? (Average # of cast members, how many are spectacles, comedy versus drama, etc.)

Oh boy, now I’m going to be up again tonight.


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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.