Why I’m going to start producing movies.

In case you missed it, a show closed recently without ever having opened.

Back before all the Tony Award hoopla, the Broadway bound production of Titanic hit an iceberg.  (Ironically, the acclaimed production was crossing the Atlantic, having originally been produced at London’s Southwark Playhouse.)  It was supposed to play Toronto first – that terrific town that used to have as much impact on the commercial theater scene as Chicago, but just hasn’t been able to rebound since the glory days of the 90s.

The reason posted in the press for the cancellation of the Toronto run of Titanic, which then dominoed into the cancellation of the NY run?

No available Broadway house.

It costs a lot of money to do out-of-town productions, and since the producers of Titanic couldn’t get a guaranteed Broadway theater sometime in the coming season, they wisely pulled the plug.  They didn’t want their ship sitting in the harbor with nowhere to dock . . . and no guarantee that it would ever dock.

So once again, the greatest problem facing Producers in the 21st century ain’t raising money, it’s finding an available theater amidst the jungle of long-running hits that we’ve spent the last 2-3 decades producing.

I wrote about this at length in this post from last year after Tuck Everlasting similarly postponed their pre-Broadway tryout (in that post I break down the available theaters by the numbers, so check it out).

So what does this have to do with me and movies?

It’s pretty simple.  I want to produce Broadway shows.  And I’ve got a bunch of shows that are approaching the port of Broadway themselves.  And a few others that have land in sight.  But I’m obviously not the only one.  There are a lot of producers out there, and a lot of good shows, big stars, and such.  And if there are less and less docks available, that means, well, the odds of me getting a show on decreases.  And that means . . .  well, what the heck am I going to do?  I’m not a thumb-twiddler, that’s for sure.  And I need to produce like a woodpecker needs to peck.

So, I’m going to start producing things that don’t need a theater.  And that would be movies.  And web stuff.  And so on.

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m not giving up on theater or Broadway at all.  For the love of George Gershwin, no.  But I’m a businessman.  And if the current theatrical climate restricts my ability to conduct business, then I’ve got to find some other businesses that fulfill what I want to do with my career.  (This kind of thing happens all the time in all sorts of industries, btw – the music biz, cell phone production, etc.  And it’s up to you to adapt to what’s happening around you.)

So I am going to start producing other things.  And I’m excited to say I’ve already got a napkin sketch of a slate of three non-theater projects.  Stay tuned for an official announcement in Q3 of this year.

This is a weird time for Producers.  I’m reminded of how people talk about losing writers to Hollywood because there are so few opportunities on the Great White Way for new and unknown playwrights.  And since it’s hard for them to earn a living writing for the theater anywhere else but on Broadway, they run out to H-town the first time someone offers them cash for a draft of American Pie 17.  I can’t help but wonder if the lack of theater availability now and in the coming years (it’s only going to get worse as we produce more long runners) will drive more Producers out West or to other careers.

Or maybe a couple of the remaining unrestored Broadway houses will reopen. Or maybe some new ones will be built. Or maybe non-traditional spaces will open up all over.  Or maybe Broadway will expand its radius (there are some sweet and huge spaces in Harlem).

I’m not so sure.  But I’m going to make sure I’m diversified just in case my ships have to drop anchor for longer than I want them to.

I’m super excited about the new stuff.  At the very least, I’ll learn a lot.  And I’ll have even more stuff to talk about on this blog.  And hopefully you’ll learn right along with 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.

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