The Playgoer: Ragtime Post-Mortem

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ragtime Post-Mortem

Informative post-mortem by WaPo's Peter Marks on the underperformance of the hometown hit "Ragtime" on Broadway. Key points:

[T]here were sales advantages for "Ragtime" at the Kennedy Center that could not be replicated on Broadway: the institution's subscribers. They purchased 30 percent of the musical's tickets, providing a solid foundation of revenue, according to center President Michael M. Kaiser. "Plus, we have a marketing reach in a much less culturally dense city," he said. "We have an ongoing relationship to an audience. Whereas on Broadway, every time you start from zero. You have to build your single-ticket sales."

In a city with far fewer options for big-scale musicals, "Ragtime" may have had an outsize impact. When it moved to New York, it not only faced more intense competition, it also had to find a niche in a theater world that has grown more and more dependent on tourists, a negligible theatergoing category in Washington.
It still amazes me when folks wonder how something that was so "successful" in a nonprofit venue doesn't succeed in the same way in the thoroughly commercial environment of Broadway. It's two different worlds!

So tourists don't go to the theatre in DC, huh? Well, I suppose there are other tourist attractions there. Still--does any other city aside from New York count on tourist ticket sales as much for its theatre business?

1 comment:

Matt said...

that last part about counting on tourists is a good point, Playgoer. It seems almost dreamy to think that a tourist in town for a week is going to seek out for their "broadway experience" a show that isn't one they see commercials for at home (ie, Lion King, Hairspray, etc.) At these prices, why take the risk? These theatres are not working hard enough at encouraging local audiences to come out, something that could be done through resident ticket discounts and other delicious "carrots."