The Playgoer: 19%

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


In a Sunday piece tucked away in the Times metro section, Charles Isherwood paints the full picture of a pathetic Broadway experience, not even a shadow of the glory days.

He also reminds us of those demographics:

The latest demographic report from the League of American Theaters and Producers, the marketing umbrella agency for Broadway, shows that during the 2005-6 season, 19 percent of Broadway theatergoers were from New York City, down from 31 percent in 1980-81. The immediate suburbs contributed 24 percent, slightly fewer than the 28 percent of a quarter-century earlier. While visitors from other countries held even at 11 percent, the largest growth came in the category of tourists from elsewhere in the United States, at 45 percent for the most recent season, up from 30 percent of the audience in 1980-81.

As a result, in the ratio of us and them, us being New Yorkers and city-adjacent folks, the balance has shifted considerably. “We” made up 58 percent of the audience 20-some years ago and now account for only 43 percent.

And yet this is still the theatre venue covered almost exclusively by the media as representative of The American Theatre.

Ok, I let me New York snobbery show through there, I guess. I suppose it might be more accurate to say that this is The American Theatre, since so many, many Americans from all over are coming.

But we can now see clearly that Broadway is not the New York Theatre. There is a New York Theatre, but it's not there. And people who hate Broadway might be surprised to learn how good it can be.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to see statistics comparing the number of tickets sold on Broadway to the number sold off-Broadway.

Broadway has the advantage in overall sales, I'm sure, but I suspect it's not by as wide a margin as you'd think from the ratio of coverage in The Times.

It's one thing for The Times to give expensive shows with open-ended runs more prominent coverage than short runs in small venues. But it's another thing entirely for the paper to cover the Broadway phenomenon virtually to the exclusion of the off-Broadway scene.

Maybe The Times needs two Arts sections--one for the national edition and one for locals. But with their current approach, they're letting down their New York readers.

Anonymous said...

True, too true.
Don't forget who buys the ads in the theater pages. Without those ads, would the NYT even have theater pages?

Anonymous said...

I never thought of it but I think you did bring up a very good point.

I'm getting very tired of this mainstream Broadway for all style.

I love Off-Broadway but there are so many of them that it's hard to try to pick the right one.

NYT can certainly help New Yorkers to get more information on this.

Aaron Riccio said...

But why does it have to be NYT that helps New Yorkers get more information? There are plenty of semi-reliable half-blog/half-review sites up there, like, on, and many others. People like me may not write for the New York Times (yet), but we are trying to establish reliable coverage for the wide volume of shows opening and closing every day, and I think you'll find ultimately that a print newspaper will never be able to comment on all the New York theater. It will ultimately come down to the on-the-scene bloggers.