Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Bright Lights, Broken Dreams. (Arts & Letters)

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Bright Lights, Broken Dreams. (Arts & Letters)

Article excerpt

"An Empirical Study of Factors Relating to the Success of Broadway Shows" by Jeffrey S. Simonoff and Lan Ma, in The Journal of Business (Jan. 2003), Graduate School of Business, Univ. of Chicago, 1101 E. 58th St., Chicago, III. 60637.

The business of Broadway is as dramatic as anything that appears on the stage. In 1999, theatergoers bought more than 11 million tickets to the Great White Way's dramas, comedies, and musicals, yielding gross revenues of more than $550 million. Yet all too often failure waits in the wings: More than half of the 91 Broadway shows that opened in the three seasons from 1996-97 to 1998-99 closed after 10 or fewer performances. Only six shows, all of them musicals, ran for more than 800 performances: Cabaret, Chicago, Jekyll and Hyde, Ragtime, The Lion King, and Titanic. Such winners can rake in profits of $50,000 per performance, but investors in a loser can see their entire investment--as much as $10 million for a musical--go right down the drain.

The rise of the musical is familiar to anybody who follows theater, but there's another, less familiar story: the declining clout of the drama critic from The New York Times, that august personage who once held an almost absolute power of life and death on Broadway. …

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