What Movie Attendance has to do with Broadway attendance.

I haven’t been to the movies in a year.  At least.

And before that last one (and I can’t even remember what it was), it had been another year before that.  At least.

What makes my lack of moviegoing even more interesting is that I have a gift card that would get me in for free and a couple of coupons for free popcorn and free Coke (my dream date).

And despite all that “freeness” and that there’s a big ol’ movie theater just three blocks from my apartment, when my wife and I were contemplating what to do last Friday night when trying to take our mind off the looming Tonys, we crossed off going to the movies faster than you can say Netflix.

That made me wonder if other people were abandoning movies as a night out just like we were.

So, I sent my Assistant Dylan and my new summer intern, Reilly, data diving to find out whether movie attendance was increasing or decreasing over the last ten years.

And, guess what . . . it turns out I’m not the only one turning down a trip to the cinema.

Here’s a graph of movie attendance over the last ten years (the dotted line is the “trend line”).

movie attendance

Not so good, right?  Obviously the increase in on-demand and streaming platforms delivered straight to your living room has kept people on the couch.

And now for the fun part.

I decided to take a look at Broadway attendance over the last ten years as well.  We graphed it out, and laid it on top of the movie attendance chart, and took a look at that trend line.

You ready?

Check it . . .

attendance graph

Amazing, right?  As movie attendance has declined, Broadway attendance has risen.

Makes you proud to be in this industry, doesn’t it?

I had a feeling this would be the case, but it’s nice to see the data prove it.  It’s a great reminder to those people who say “the theater is dying” that they don’t know what the @#$% they’re talking about.  The theater has been around for over 2,500 years.  So if it’s dying, it’s going very very slowly . . . and will outlast just about everything else.  In fact, I believe that as more and more two dimensional, recorded and flat forms of entertainment pop up on your TV, your phone, your tablet . . . the live, in-your-face, “in the room where it happens” experience becomes more and more rare.  And when something is more rare it becomes more valuable.  And when something is more valuable, well, more people want it.  See exhibit A on increasing attendance above.

What else does this mean for our industry on a more specific level?

The idea of distributing filmed content of shows in movie theaters around the country is already old news.  Instead, in the coming years, Broadway Producers will focus on what we did with Daddy Long Legs and what the Roundabout Theatre Company announced Tuesday in partnership with BroadwayHD for She Loves Me . . . deliver theatrical content straight to your living room.

And I predict that’ll help keep our attendance line trending up and up and up.

And I still won’t be going to the movies, no matter how much free buttery topping they give me.


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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.