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.
- 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%|
|August Wilson Theatre||10||2||20%|
|Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre||23||11||47.80%|
|Brooks Atkinson Theatre||24||4||16.66%|
|Circle in the Square Theatre||19||4||21.05%|
|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%|
|John Golden Theatre||22||6||27.27%|
|Lyric Theatre (formerly Foxwoods)||10||1||10%|
|Music Box Theatre||20||5||25%|
|Neil Simon Theatre||10||3||33.33%|
|New Amsterdam Theatre||3||3||100.00%|
|Richard Rodgers Theatre||14||4||28.57%|
|Samuel J. Friedman Theatre||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|Stephen Sondheim Theatre||6||2||33.33%|
|St. James Theatre||16||2||12.50%|
|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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