The Playgoer: "Subsidiary Rights"

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Monday, March 10, 2008

"Subsidiary Rights"

Did you know the contract Roundabout Theatre Company offers for new plays it premieres claims 40% of all the play's subsequent "subsidiary rights" for 10 years?

I didn't. And neither apparently did Craig Lucas, who has just withdrawn his latest, A Prayer for My Enemy, from their next season over the clause.

Variety's Gordon Cox puts it in perspective.

Writerly displeasure over sub rights was voiced publicly about a year ago in a speech made by scribe Richard Nelson at an ART/NY conference, lamenting, among other things, the various ways in which "participation" by commercial and nonprofit producers drains a playwright's income. Roundabout gets a particularly bad rap among scribes, since its 40% slice is the highest in Gotham.

Among other large-scale New York nonprofits, Manhattan Theater Club asks for varying percentages of sub rights, whereas Lincoln Center Theater asks for none. (Center Theater Group in Los Angeles began following LCT's example in January.)

[...]

The 40% mirrors the sub rights a commercial producer asks for -- which some writers can more easily countenance on that level, citing what they consider to be the greater risk taken on by the producers and their investors.

Gee, nothing imbues confidence in new writing like putting the very idea of "greater risk" into the contract!

1 comment:

The Playgoer said...

UPDATE: Lucas has taken the play to Playwrights Horizons instead, who will present it next season.