Is it just me? Or does it feel like more shows are closing this summer?

I’m no Ghost-like psychic, nor do I-See-Dead-People . . . but every once in awhile I do get a feeling that something isn’t right.  And when I read the latest closing notice up on the ol’, I thought . . . there seems to be more shows than usual walking-towards-the-light-Carol-Ann.

But spooky feelings aren’t enough for a blog, otherwise I’d have to write one every time I hear the word ‘Scientology.’

So, I went data diving to see if I could find some numbers to back up this uneasy feeling I’ve got inside.

I looked at the number of shows running at Tony time for the last thirty years.  Then I looked at the number of shows closing during the period from the Tony Awards through Labor Day.  Then I looked to see how this year compared to the past.

And, well, maybe I should open up a storefront and start charging people to talk to their long-lost-Grandpa-Joe, because I was unfortunately right.

  • Over the past thirty years, there have been an average of 27.23 shows running at Tony Time.
  • On average, 10.61 of them have closed before Labor Day.
  • Weighting the averages appropriately gets us an average close rate of 38.96% of all the shows running.

This year?

  • There were 34 shows running on the day they handed out the trophies.
  • A whopping 17 are closing over the summer, for a close rate of 50%.
  • That’s a rate that has happened only twice before, and not since 1996.

(Insert creeptastic music here.)

As I was looking over the numbers, I did notice a dramatic increase in the number of shows running in June that hasn’t happened since the late 90s.  Get this:

  • Over the past fifteen years, there have been an average 32.27 shows running at Tony Time.
  • For the fifteen years prior to that, there were only 22.5 shows running at Tony Time.
  • Over the past fifteen years, an average of 12.73  closed over the summer.
  • Over the prior fifteen years, an average of 8.625 shows closed over the summer.
  • That’s a weighted average of 39.46% for the past fifteen years, and 38.33% for the prior fifteen.
So, over the fifteen year period, we’re seeing a little uptick.
But what if we just looked at the prior five years?
  • The average close rate over the prior five years has been 40.96%.
  • Not coincidentally, there have been almost two more shows running over the last five years than the previous ten, and almost 11 more than the previous fifteen years.

And this year, of course, we saw 50% of the shows close.

So what’s the takeaway?  Why?

I think you got it.  Say it with me . . .

We just might be producing more shows than our market can bear.

Sure, the vendors are happy.  They’re working on a ton of more shows, and aren’t tied into profitability.

But the investors aren’t.

With attendance flatter than the earth before Columbus took it for a spin, it’s counter-intuitive to profit-making to create more product.  Imagine, for a second, if during the financial crisis that devastated the auto industry, Detroit just started making a few more cars.

While everyone thinks their show can beat the odds and be the best, it’s important to be objective about your show.  There’s only so much business to go around.  And if you try to compete in a flooded market, you may just get run aground.

And that’s scarier than any little blonde girl staring at a bunch of static.


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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.