How the heck do I get a Broadway, Off-Broadway or any theater?

It used to be that a Broadway Producer’s #1 concern was raising money.  Believe it or not, that just ain’t the case no more. Now, the #1 issue facing all of us out there is can we, will we get a theater . . . and when?

There’s a long list of Producers and shows looking for their chance on Broadway. 

And there’s only 41 Broadway theaters.

Why is it so different than it was? And if it’s so tough, how do you position your show to get one of the only 41 theaters that are available? Oh, and just who are the theater owners we’re talking about?

First, let’s dive into the “five families” of Broadway Theater Owners:

  1. The Shuberts own 17 theaters (plus 1 in Philadelphia).
  2. The Nederlanders own 9 theaters.
  3. Jujamcyn has 5 theaters.
  4. There are a few nonprofits that own a collective 6 theaters (i.e. Roundabout, Manhattan Theatre Club, Second Stage, Lincoln Center, etc).
  5. Ambassador Theater Group owns 2 theaters.
  6. Disney owns 1 theater.
  7. And Circle In The Square is the last Broadway theater on this list.

These 7 groups own a total of 41 Broadway theaters but not all 41 are available. Big shows like The Lion King, Hamilton, Wicked, Book Of Mormon aren’t going away. 

So when you take the big shows out of the equation, we’re left with about 16 theaters “in play”.

And the “theater crunch” isn’t only on Broadway. It’s Off Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and everywhere.

Which means we need a strategy!

So how do you decide what theater you want for your show?

To help answer that question for myself, I break it down into 3 parts:

  1. Size: Are you writing a musical or a play? Big cast, big orchestra?  That means a big operating budget . . . which means you want a bigger theater to have more of a “gross potential” (how much in ticket sales you can take in in one night.)

  2. Location: On Broadway, a theater on 45th Street is more valuable than a theater east of 7th ave purely due to the foot traffic from Times Square. But wherever you are, look and see how your location can have a positive effect on your ticket sales.

  3. Art: Where will your show play better? Does it require intimacy? Big set or small set?  A show’s environment can affect an audience’s response.  

So, what are some strategies for getting that Broadway, Off Broadway or any theater? 

Here are five recommendations.

  1. Have a plan: Go into your meetings with a plan ready to share. 
  2. Build relationships: The saying “it’s all in who you know”.  Theater Owners want to know their theaters are in good hands with good producers. Producers they know and trust will deliver for them. You build trust with time.
  3. Have stars in front of or behind the camera: Though I’ve often said make your show the star and make stars out of the people working on your show, the right star can be attractive to theater owners as well as audience members!
  4. Get a great Director:  Hal Prince said to me, “Want a show to happen?  Get me to direct it.” Directors open more doors than you think!
  5. Be ready to go quickly: These days, advantage goes to the shows that can move quickly. Be prepared when you get the call!

Learning how to navigate this maze and the history of it is more important than it has ever been before if you’re interested in getting a show on Broadway or Off Broadway or at any theater.

Hopefully this helps get you closer to booking your theater. 🙂 

P.S. We talk strategies like this every single week in our NextStage group. If increasing the odds of you getting produced is of interest to you, click here to set up a NextStage Strategy Call with my team.

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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.