The #1 Reason why there is a Broadway Theater crunch today. #ChartAlert

Talk to any Broadway Producer these days, and the #1 problem we’re all facing isn’t raising money, it isn’t marketing, and it isn’t even all the life-sized Elmos in Times Square (where “Tickle Me” takes on a whole different meaning).

The #1 problem facing Broadway Producers is the lack of theater availability.

Unless you’ve got a major star in your pocket, have produced a massive-sized hit in the past or can turn on a dime and slide into an unexpected opening like we did with Spring, the theater owners are most likely to tell hopeful Producers looking for a home for their show that there just ain’t any room at the inn.

The landlords themselves will tell you that this is a pretty big contrast to not too long ago when it was common to have several dark theaters throughout the year.

So what happened?  Why are we all full up?

The answer is . . . we’ve gotten too good.

We’ve gotten too good at getting our shows to run longer than they used to.  And it’s all in the charts below.

I pulled the average runs of the big four categories (New Musical, Musical Revival, New Play, Play Revival) and mapped them out for you so you can see just what is clogging up our developmental pipeline.  Ready?  Here goes.

The first is the chart of the average run of New Musicals since the 1950s . . .

new musicals

Amazing, right?  And no, you’re not seeing double, that trend line is real.

Oh wait, you actually are seeing double, because since the 1950s, we’ve DOUBLED the average run of new musicals to about 600 performances (which is just under a year and a half).

Of course, the shows responsible for this massive change are the big long runners . . . the mega hits like PhantomLion King, etc. that take up residence at a theater and show no sign of going anywhere.

(By the way, the tail off at the end of this chart is mostly due to the fact that the big hits that opened in that decade just haven’t had time to catch up to the others yet – but give them time.)

So that’s new musicals, but what about revivals of musicals?

revival musicals

This chart has a little bit more of a mountain peak trend line, mostly due to two outliers . . . Oh! Calcutta! and Chicago.  But again, trending higher for sure, which means more unavailability.

And what about revivals of plays?  Certainly the limited run, star driven trend of the last few years must have cut short the run of revivals, right?

Think again, my good friends.  Think again.

While they’ve definitely flatlined over the past couple of decades, average performance counts are still significantly higher compared to how long these types of shows used to run.

revival plays

And yeah, I’ve skipped a category.  New Plays.  Because this is the one chart that is different from all others.

Take a look.

new plays

While the average run of new Broadway plays is up since the 50s, this is the category with the least amount of gain in 60 years!  We’re talking a growth of around 20% instead of 100%.  Shocking?

And when you jam all of these categories into one graph, it looks like this.

all shows

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?  Oh look at how far we’ve come.

Broadway has been a musical business since that happy accident that created The Black Crook.  But in the last twenty to thirty years, that business has exploded, taking our grosses to new heights, and filling our theaters to the brim.

And every year it seems we add more hits than flops (just look at how many shows are still running from last season – even Finding Neverlandwhich failed to get good reviews and Tony nominations).

There’s no question that the #1 reason why we’ve got less and less theater availability is that average runs are getting longer and longer.

Let’s just hope that recoupment rates are getting higher and higher along with it.


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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.