“There’s more product than ever, and Broadway producers are becoming savvier marketers,” said David Binder, the producer of two of the season’s most popular plays, “Network” and “Burn This.”
The healthy array of plays — 21 of the season’s 34 openings — was heartening to those who worry about whether Broadway still has room for shows in which no one sings. Most of them were new and most written by Americans. And many of the plays got positive reviews and drew solid audiences.
Four so far have become profitable by recouping their capitalization costs: “The Boys in the Band,” “The Lifespan of a Fact,” “Network” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Mockingbird” was especially noteworthy because week after week it has been the top-grossing show that opened during the 2018-19 season, besting not only the other plays but also the new musicals. With a top ticket price of $497, “Mockingbird” has grossed $45 million and is poised for a long run.
Seven of the plays didn’t have to worry about profitability because they were presented by nonprofits, which, with a growing presence on Broadway, have helped stabilize the market for plays. And five of the plays, including “Mockingbird,” were presented by Scott Rudin, a commercial producer with an above-average appetite for new and risky work.
“In past seasons we had thought there was room for one big play and possibly one big star vehicle, if those two were not the same,” said Jordan Roth, the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, which operates five Broadway houses. “But this season brings us ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘Network’ and ‘Ferryman’ and ‘What the Constitution Means to Me,’ all of which have been doing really great numbers. So throw popular wisdom out the window — let’s just all do the best work we can and our audiences will respond.”
Shows are sticking around.
Attendance, obviously, goes down when theaters are empty. And this past season they rarely were.
What’s going on? Theaters are generally dark for several months between shows, to allow for removing one set, installing another, and doing technical rehearsals for the new production.