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From The Founder: What Broadway theaters give you the best shot at recoupment?

Written by Ken Davenport 

When I can’t sleep, I count things.  

You’ve heard the old adage about real estate, right?  Location, Location, Location.

Certainly, that holds true for theater as well, right?  As I’ve taught in Broadway Investing Seminars, a theater on 45th St. has got a lot more value than a theater east of 7th Avenue (it’s all about the foot traffic).  But could it mean the difference between recouping and not?

Lots of things go into whether or not a show succeeds financially, but for this blog, I decided to look at the recoupment rates of Broadway theaters.  Specifically, I decided to look at all the shows in every Broadway house since “the year 2000”, and calculate the percentage of those shows that recouped . . . just for fun.  (I wanted to go back further, but the data gets a little spotty back then.)

A few notes and disclaimers:

  • I didn’t analyze the non-profit theaters, because, well, who the heck knows how those shows do.
  • I also didn’t count non-profit productions that played commercial houses or special engagements (e.g. touring David Copperfield), or solo shows (including my own Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, which did recoup).  I also eliminated some transfers and other productions that may have recouped elsewhere first or shows that just opened this season and it’s too early to tell.
  • To determine if a show recouped or not, I used a combination of press releases (since most Producers scream it from the hills when their show recoups), some insider information, and my good ol’ gut.  I think I’m pretty dang close, but because there is no public record of this stuff, (but there should be – read this blog), there is a margin of error of +/- 1 show.  (And if anyone out there knows that I’m wrong – please correct me.)
  • I also eliminated any theaters that have only had 1 show in the theater the entire 20 year period (or close to it). i.e, The Majestic and its masked man.
  • The twenty-year span of time is give-or-take a few months, depending on when a production began its run.

Remember:

  • This calculation is only based on the number of commercial productions that have played these houses since 2000.

So with all that in mind, here we go:

Broadway Theater # of Shows # Recouped Recoupment %
Al Hirschfeld Theatre 12 3 25%
Ambassador Theatre n/a n/a n/a
August Wilson Theatre 10 2 20%
Belasco Theatre 22 5 22.70%
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre 23 11 47.80%
Booth Theatre 21 5 23.80%
Broadhurst Theatre 21 6 28.57%
Broadway Theatre 14 2 14.28%
Brooks Atkinson Theatre 24 4 16.66%
Circle in the Square Theatre 19 4 21.05%
Cort Theatre 29 2 6.89%
Ethel Barrymore Theatre 24 6 25%
Eugene O’Neill Theatre 11 5 45.45%
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre 25 9 36%
George Gershwin Theatre 2 1 50%
Helen Hayes Theatre 17 3 17.64%
Imperial Theatre 12 7 58.33%
John Golden Theatre 22 6 27.27%
Longacre Theatre 20 3 15%
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre 9 1 11.11%
Lyceum Theatre 24 2 8.83%
Lyric Theatre (formerly Foxwoods) 10 1 10%
Majestic Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Marquis Theatre 15 3 20%
Minskoff Theatre 4 1 25%
Music Box Theatre 20 5 25%
Nederlander Theatre 10 2 20%
Neil Simon Theatre 10 3 33.33%
New Amsterdam Theatre 3 3 100.00%
Palace Theatre 11 4 36.36%
Richard Rodgers Theatre 14 4 28.57%
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Shubert Theatre 8 6 75%
Stephen Sondheim Theatre 6 2 33.33%
St. James Theatre 16 2 12.50%
Studio 54 29 2 6.90%
Vivian Beaumont Theatre n/a n/a n/a
Walter Kerr Theatre 20 6 30%
Winter Garden Theatre 6 2 33.33%

Now what does all this mean?  And what did I learn from all the clicking I did on IBDB and searching the web for recoupment records?

The location of your theater will always matter . . . BUT, it doesn’t even come close to mattering as much as the content inside that theater.  No one thought anyone would travel below 42nd St to see a show, and then Rent happened.  Everyone thinks (including me, as evident by the prologue to this blog) that traveling East of 7th is like traveling across the river Styx . . . but you put the right play with the right star in that jewel box known as The Cort and you got yourself a hit.

So take these stats with a grain of salt (although do pay special attention to the theaters that don’t have much turnover . . . like The Winter Garden) and remember, statistics can and should serve as a rudder when guiding an artistic enterprise . . . but the content steers the ship.


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