Is this the end of Broadway?

It’s no surprise the United States economy is dangerously low.

With unemployment at 8.3% and living expenses going up, it’s a wonder Broadway’s lights, and other national theatres, are still bright and glowing. New musicals like Disney’s “The Newsies” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and revival shows like “Evita” and “Chicago” are popping up for the 2012-2013 theatre season with positive outlooks. With Broadway tickets ranging from $20 to up to $120 a ticket, it’s a wonder how people are still managing to fit the glitz and glamour of catching a show in their budgets.

The price of tickets is what got Broadway into a slump in 2009 with ticket sales lacking and shows closing because as Marc Shaiman, the composer of Hairspray put it to the New York Times, “It’s like putting a pet to sleep not because it’s sick but because you can’t afford dog food.” In fact, 15 musicals including big names like “Hairspray” and “Grease” closed in January 2009.

“I watched that (sales) line begin to increase and then when the stock market went in the tank it was like everyone pressed pause on their purchase buttons,” Ken Davenport, producer of ‘13’, one of the Broadway shows that closed due to the lack of sales, told Regional News Network.

There was a lot of speculation (and fear) from directors and would-be playwrights if Broadway would continue. Then with the dawn of 2010, theatres and directors seemed to shake off the economic downturn. Ticket sales in 2011 went up, some musicals boasting 100 percent capacity or better, according to the Broadway League.

Directors began to adapt movies into musicals like the recent “Ghost: The Musical”, “Once” and “The Newsies” to name a few. They began to embrace social media. Theatres, in turn, went to Twitter, Facebook, promoting shows with discount tickets, backstage and promotional videos posted on Youtube. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, Tenn. offers free tickets to a show for patrons who write a good review they’ve recently seen at TPAC.

See other ways theatres entice audiences. 

Theatres also offer student rush tickets, which fancies Garrett Marks, a junior at Belmont University who has seen his share of shows, about 12 on Broadway or touring companies in various locations.

“I have never spent full price on a ticket,” said Marks.

He snags $20 tickets from TPAC for touring shows. When he lived in New York City for summer 2011, he spent $50 for “Catch Me If You Can” because he “really wanted to see it”.

“When I was in New York City, I student rushed everything,” said Marks. “There’s no reason to spend [$150] to sit in a place that’s no better than the place I sat where I spent $25.”

Because tickets are easy to come by nowadays, Marks argues the value of the ticket has lowered.

“It doesn’t mean anything anymore these days,” said Marks. “You don’t get a medal for saying ‘I bought an actual ticket’ because we all get the same play bill, we all see the same show.”

While that may be, theatres are still offering these tickets. It’s not about the quality of the people coming anymore. It’s about the quantity. Because theatres have opened their doors to wider ranges of audience members via social media, ticket sales continue to rise.


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