Let’s hope THIS doesn’t happen to raising money on Broadway.
Some good things have happened in the world of raising money recently. The JOBS Act was passed, general solicitation was approved, and even the regulation I used to raise money for Godspell was overhauled (which may make it ripe for another Broadway show to use it without spending nearly half the time and money I did).
But I’ve been hearing whispers about another change that I’m hoping gets drowned out by good producing soon enough.
This one isn’t regulatory, mind you, but it has the potential to change the way Broadway Producers and Investors do business for sure.
I guess I should start by explaining one of the primary differences between producing a Broadway show and producing an independent movie. When you call an Agent to ask about an Actor for a Broadway show, the first question you usually get is, “Who’s the Director?” The second question is usually, “And when do you want to do this?”
When you call an Agent to ask about an Actor for an independent film, the first question you usually get is, “Do you have all your money?”
And there isn’t usually a second question until you can answer the first in the affirmative.
Why is Hollywood more concerned about Producers having money in the bank? Well, since a celebrity’s time is so valuable (or so they think), they don’t want their time wasted on something that isn’t going to happen (some insist on a “pay-or-play” contract to make sure the celeb gets paid if the movie doesn’t happen). There are also more hucksters claiming they are Producers in Tinseltown since it’s such a town of talkers. And frankly, since you don’t have to have a theater like we do in order to open the show, Producers can just lead people on to death.
But because of the recently canceled-in-rehearsals production of Nerds, not to mention the residue of Rebecca that is still lingering in the minds of so many Broadway Investors I talk to, I’m starting to hear more and more Theater Owners, Vendors, Agents, etc. ask potential Producers, “Do you have all the money?”
Could Theater Owners and Agents start saying, “Show me the money!” before booking a theater or signing a contract?
Because of the way Broadway does business (theaters becoming available last minute, and shows, like Nerds, having to scramble to pull it all together), I don’t think that having the money in the bank before a show is confirmed is realistic for us. And provided Producers have a solid reputation and a track record for raising money, I don’t see us going to this extreme. As Jordan Roth even attests in this interview, it’s not uncommon for shows, even good ones, to be raising money during previews . . . and I can’t see that changing.
But with theater availability what it is, and with both Theater Owners and stars able to be pickier than ever before, I do expect Producers to get grilled a bit more about their “plans for financing.” And for those that don’t have that track record or reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw our own version of “pay-or-play” contracts coming down the pike.
What that means for all of us is that if the 2000s were about Producers mastering marketing, then in the current decade it means we’re going to have to be even better at raising money.
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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.