What Broadway theaters give you the best shot at recoupment?
When I can’t sleep, I count things. So this blog is sponsored by this nagging cough I have and the meds that are keeping me up tonight.
You’ve heard the old adage about real estate, right? Location, Location, Lo-you get the picture-cation. Certainly that holds true for theater as well, right? As I teach in our Broadway Investing Seminar, a theater on 45th St. has got a lot more value than a theater east of 7th Avenue (it’s all about the foot traffic). But could it mean the difference between recouping and not?
Lots of things go into whether or not a show succeeds financially, but for this blog, I decided to look at the recoupment rates of Broadway theaters. Specifically, I decided to look at all the shows in every Broadway house since “the year 2000”, and calculate the percentage of those shows that recouped . . . just for fun. (I wanted to go back further, but the data gets a little spotty back then.)
A few notes and disclaimers:
- I didn’t analyze the non-profit theaters, because, well, who the heck knows how those shows do.
- I also didn’t count non-profit productions that played commercial houses or special engagements (e.g. touring David Copperfield), or solo shows (including my own Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, which did recoup). I also eliminated some transfers and other productions that may have recouped elsewhere first or shows that just opened this season and it’s too early to tell.
- To determine if a show recouped or not, I used a combination of press releases (since most Producers scream it from the hills when their show recoups), some insider information, and my good ol’ gut. I think I’m pretty dang close, but because there is no public record of this stuff, (but there should be – read this blog), there is a margin of error of +/- 1 show. (And if anyone out there knows that I’m wrong – please correct me.)
- I also eliminated any theaters that have only had 1 show in the theater the entire 10 year period (or close to it). For ex., The Majestic and its masked man.
- The ten year span of time is give or take a few months, depending on when a production began its run.
- This calculation is only based on the number of commercial productions that have played these houses since 2000.
So with all that in mind, here we go:
|Broadway Theater||# of Shows||# Recouped||Recoupment %|
Al Hirschfeld Theatre
|August Wilson Theatre||8||1||12.50%|
|Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre||17||8||47.06%|
|Brooks Atkinson Theatre||13||3||23.08%|
|Circle in the Square Theatre||10||2||20.00%|
|Ethel Barrymore Theatre||12||2||16.67%|
|Eugene O’Neill Theatre||11||4||36.36%|
|Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre||17||5||29.41%|
|George Gershwin Theatre||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Helen Hayes Theatre||7||1||14.29%|
|John Golden Theatre||8||4||50.00%|
|Music Box Theatre||14||2||14.29%|
|Neil Simon Theatre||3||1||33.33%|
|New Amsterdam Theatre||2||2||100.00%|
|Richard Rodgers Theatre||8||3||37.50%|
|Samuel J. Friedman Theatre||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Stephen Sondheim Theatre||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|St. James Theatre||6||1||16.67%|
|Vivian Beaumont Theatre||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Walter Kerr Theatre||10||3||30.00%|
|Winter Garden Theatre||1||1||100.00%|
Now what does all this mean? And what did I learn from all the clicking on IBDB I did and searching the web for recoupment records?
First, I learned not to take a certain type of over-the-counter medication too close to bedtime, otherwise it’ll be 2:16 AM before you know it and you’ll still be working on a blog and wondering what you’re going to do when you’re done, and second . . .
The location of your theater will always matter . . . BUT, it doesn’t even come close to mattering as much as the content inside that theater. No one thought anyone would travel below 42nd St to see a show, and then Rent happened. Everyone thinks (including me, as evident by the prologue to this blog) that traveling East of 7th is like traveling across the river Styx . . . but you put the right play with the right star in that jewel box known as The Cort and you got yourself a hit.
So take these stats with a grain of salt (although do pay special attention to the theaters that don’t have much turnover . . . like The Winter Garden) and remember, statistics can and should serve as a rudder when guiding an artistic enterprise . . . but the content steers the ship.
Now . . . since my eyes are still glued open . . . I wonder if there is a correlation to the length of a show’s run and the number of wigs used in that show by red-headed chorus girls from Alabama . . .
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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.