We’re gettin’ our butts kicked so badly, it’s embarrassing.
A headline on my daily lunch time read, Playbill.com, captured my attention recently. It screamed . . .“Schedule of Upcoming Live Theatre Broadcasts in Movie Theatres and on Television”.
I squealed like a 7 year old who just got the new Elsa doll when I read it. Of course, I wondered what shows I could catch at my local cineplex, but more importantly I started thinking about the shows I could recommend to my Mom and Dad who live out in suburban land, hours away from New York City. This was a chance for them to get a taste of Broadway in their snowy Massachusetts town (and I knew that if they saw a show out there now, they’d be more excited to come in to the city this summer).
I scrolled down the list. And that’s when I noticed it.
“King Lear . . . Canadian production.”
“Love’s Labour’s Lost . . . British.”
“A View from the Bridge . . . British.”
See where I’m going with this? Wait there’s more . . .
“Billy Elliot . . . that was here, right? Nope. This is the British production.”
“Driving Miss Daisy . . . wait, surely that’s our production. Sort of. This was shot in Australia.”
In total, there were 15 productions of plays and musicals that were scheduled to appear on big or small screens in the next several months. Several of them featured big stars including Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, James Earl Jones and more . . .
And of those 15, only one, one I tell you, was a US production. And that was a non-profit production (Act One at Lincoln Center).
Yeah, this is embarrassing. And the Broadway ego takes a shellacking every time a list like this gets published. How are we supposed to uphold our reputation as being the biggest and best producer of live theater if other countries are beating us to the market? The UK and Canada are exporting and distributing better than we are!
But this is no longer just an ego issue. It’s an economic one.
What’s happening now is no different than what the auto industry faced years ago. Detroit got too expensive, and other countries started producing cars cheaper, and sending them all over the world . . . including to our own driveways. And then, the next thing you know, the auto industry needs a bailout.
There’s obviously a market for stage productions all over the world. You think there would be 15 filmed stage productions scheduled to debut in cities around the world if there weren’t? There are customers waiting to pay for this experience. And we’re not providing so other countries are.
And you know what means?
We’re losing jobs.
There are 14 productions on this list that were shot outside the US. What would have been the economic impact on this city if they were shot here? Performers are losing out on salaries. Unions are losing out on benefits. The city is losing out on taxes.
We’re getting our asses kicked.
It’s not too late. Luckily we have the best content in the world, so if we wake up, and make telecasts the #1 priority for our industry in the next five years, we’ll be fine.
But if we don’t, well, we might need a bailout of our own. Or, there just might be a heck of a lot more British imports on Broadway.
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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.