I’m not even going to try to think of a pun this week, folks. That’s how serious this issue is.
Fall is the season of change. The leaves change, the weather changes, time seems to change because the sun sets sooner, and the Broadway landscape changes. The summer tourist season is over and it’s a long time before the holiday tourist season begins. So when a new show is looking to open in the spring during Tony season, they need a theatre to make their home. And so old shows are kicked out. Not just bad shows or shows that haven’t been running for years at a time. Just under-performing shows.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Broadway, at the end of the day, is a business. Theatre is a business. And if your show doesn’t keep asses in seats, your ass doesn’t stay in the theatre. I’m obsessed with reading the BroadwayWorld grosses every Monday. Last week, there was only show that met their gross potential: Hamilton. A few others came close, but most shows are sitting at the 50% potential right now. On average, only half of seats on Broadway were filled that week.
That’s just how the biz works, though. Shows run, then new shows take their place. Do you think the people who were sad when Idina Menzel’s If/Then closed after a year at the Richard Rodgers are still sad now? Because Hamilton is there now. I’m certainly not sad about it.
The of the last three Best Musical winners, two of them closed within two years of opening. On the other hand, Phantom of the Opera has been running so long that it’s not even for theatre people anymore. Seeing Phantom is its own New York tourist attraction, like going to Central Park or the Empire State Building. It’s just a thing you do. But even Phantom only brought in 54.2% last week. Shows that have been around for fifty years and are well-known to tourist audiences aren’t even performing well – Fiddler on the Roof brought in a measly 33.5% (and has already announced its closing at the end of the year, which is usually a booster).
I have no doubt these numbers will rebound around Thanksgiving. But for someone like me, who only gets to New York every two or three years and watches every meticulous move that Broadway makes, it’s heartbreaking to see shows open and close without being able to even dream of tickets. I won’t see Fiddler or Matilda or Something Rotten or Jersey Boys or An American in Paris. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Cats will run until the end of time.