The Playgoer: B'way Family-Show Market:: "Overstated"

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Monday, July 27, 2009

B'way Family-Show Market:: "Overstated"

In case you were worried that Disney-esque behemoths were overtaking Broadway for good, there's hope. According to Variety's Robert Hofler, some corporate introspection has concluded that putting on a glut of mega-expensive "family entertainment" spectacles is turning out to be a no-win proposition.

How different the Broadway landscape looked on May Day 2006. Disney Theatricals was flush with its long-running behemoths "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King," and it had two more movie-to-stage adaptations ready to launch that year -- "Tarzan" and "Mary Poppins" -- with a third, "The Little Mermaid," being readied for the Great White Way.

Other producers had tried to woo G-rated audiences, but all of them lost a lot of money on "Seussical," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Little Women." Only Disney knew how to take the formula of charging adult ticket prices to kiddie shows and making it work.

Until, of course, it didn't.

The House of Mouse admitted it took a loss on "Tarzan" (486 perfs), and will do the same with "The Little Mermaid" (677 perfs) when it closes Aug. 30.
In other words:
"The family market was overstated," says one Broadway producer. "And anyone rushing to do a family musical has to realize that if the best brand in the world (i.e., Disney) saw the limits, then how could anyone else succeed?"
Which means bad news for Dreamworks' Shrek, still hobbling along through the summer. With families probably shelling out for only one Broadway show a year, if that, they'll probably still go with Disney rather than the knockoff.

Hofler's interesting diagnosis of the problem is that the industry has relied only on overbudget product to lure families, taking no advantage of theatre's unique ability to enchant cheaply.
No producer has yet been able to create the kids' version of "Avenue Q," "Next to Normal" or "Rent" -- adult shows that operate between $250,000 and $350,000 a week.
Translation: it's the overhead, stupid.

3 comments:

Daviid Cote said...

The idea of low-overhead (read: imagination-rich) family fare is tantalizing indeed. If the best of New Victory shows could try their luck on Broadway we might be surprised. On another note, however, Shrek is not "hobbling along." Last week, it took in more than $1 million in box office and played to 90% capacity. You might check the numbers at Playbill before assuming it's on its last legs: http://www.playbill.com/features/article/131498-Broadway_Grosses_July_20-26

The Playgoer said...

Touchee, "Daviid." (Gee, any relation to DavID Cote?) Indeed I usually do check my box office stats before making such proclamations. So my bad.

STILL, I cite as my source for that remark Hofler's piece, which says, "will have a hard time recouping its humongous capitalization on Broadway." So I guess week-to-week it's doing ok (especially in summer, and largely at disount TKTS rates, I bet). But it's a long way from recouping.

In other words...dead show walking?

Tom Shea said...

All boats are lifted in summer tourist season. And Shrek is as made for summer as Transformers is. We'll see what happens in the fall, when tourists go home and kids go back to school. Personally, since I'm an actor, I hope all shows run forever, but as long as I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony too.