Why is the September Slide getting worse?

There’s a myth out there that says “Broadway Business booms all summer long!”

While sure, the tide of tourist dollars that arrive in the warm weather helps keep the grosses up, the whole summer ain’t a bonanza.

In fact, the summer gets more and more focused every year, with the bulk of the bucks coming in mid to the end of July.

After that, it’s a slow but steady sliiiiiiiiide to September.  And we all know what happens there.  Right after Labor Day, the grosses fall off a cliff (just about every business in every industry falls off a cliff around the same time, so don’t feel bad – people just don’t like to spend money around that time of year).

I’ve been riding this September Slide with all of my shows throughout my career, so I’m used to it.  But recently it felt like it was getting worse.

But I’m a paranoid Producer, so we can’t just go on my hysterical hunches . . . we gotta look at the data.

So one of my trusty interns and I did just that.

We looked at a twenty year period from 1994 – 2013 and for each year we pulled out the aggregate Broadway gross for all shows for the week previous to Labor Day (“Week #1”) and compared that to the aggregate Broadway gross for the week four weeks prior to Labor Day (“Week #4”).  We then figured the percentage decline from the 4th week to the week before ((“Week #4 – Week #1)/Week #4).  Make sense?

(First bit of interesting info – there was only ONE week in that 20 year period when grosses didn’t decline – in 2006, when grosses grew by a whopping .08%.)

Then, I divided those twenty years into two groups, 1994 – 2003 and 2004 – 2013 and I calculated the average percentage decline from Week #4 to Week #1, or what I call “The September Slide Quotient.”

The results?

For the first decade, 1994 – 2003, Broadway Grosses declined 9.07% from four weeks prior to Labor Day to the week prior to Labor Day.

For the second decade, 2004 – 2013, Broadway Grosses declined 12.61%!

That’s an increase to our September Slide Quotient of 3.54%!

To put that in actual dollars, if 2013 had only a slide of 9.07% (the first decade’s Sept. Slide Quotient), Broadway as a whole would have grossed another $722,685!  That’s like having another musical on the boards!  Or two plays!  Both with healthy grosses!

That’s right, during the biggest boom time for Broadway, we’re actually experiencing a larger September Slide than ever before.  Well, well, well, it looks like I’m not paranoid after all!  Ok, well I am, but not about this, anyway!

(For the record, some of you may be asking why I didn’t use this year’s (2014) figures since they are readily available.  Well, honestly, this year is a super anomaly with playing weeks up a whopping 20.9%.  That’s 1/5 more Broadway shows on the boards than last year.  Since this year seems to be an aberration, I excluded it for this analysis.  BUT, we did add it in just to see how much it would change the numbers and we STILL end up with about 2%, or well over $500k.)

So the September Slide is getting worse.

But why?

I think the answer is simple.


Everyone knows start dates for schools (public, private, colleges, etc.) have been scrolling back earlier and earlier each year . . . not to mention the start of “double sessions” for football, soccer, cheerleading, and the zillion more extra curricular activities that are available now that weren’t a decade or two ago.  Orientations, retreats, all factor in as well.  Parents, families, all have to get back home from their breaks faster than ever.

In fact, look at this article from The Washington Post about a Maryland initiative to push the start date of their schools post-labor day, claiming families need more time to spend with each other (admit it, Maryland politicians,  you really mean more time to spend money).

Obviously this country needs to continue to focus on education, especially as we start to lag behind the rest of the world, so I’m not suggesting that we start pulling our kids out of school to see shows.

But the September Slide is real.  And it’s getting worse.

We’ve got to come up with another initiative to counteract it.

How about the June Jump?



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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.