Rich People

Michael Riedel's Post post hits a few nails this morning:
The producers of "Billy Elliot" ... are "only" charging $300 for premium seats. But they have increased the price of mediocre seats... $135, as opposed to $121 at most other shows.

...Broadway has turned its back on the working and middle classes. If you're not rich, if you don't have a loft in SoHo or a three-bedroom on the Upper West Side or a house in Westport, get lost, we don't need you, you can't afford us. If you really want to take the family to a show, check out the Ice Capades.

So here's the question Reidel, no sarcasm intended: what do you suggest be done? The Producers brought top ticket prices to $100; Young Frankenstein pushed Premium to $450. We can blame Brooks, but:

  • He's practically the only one actually making money.
  • Most shows run for years without profit; producers always seem at a financial loss.
  • The actors/stagehand/musicians/etc unions complain that they're not being given their fair share.
  • And all that said, theatregoers like myself lament the absurdly-high ticket costs.
I've had the financials of Broadway explained to me so many times, and as a business theatre just doesn't work. It relies on handouts, and without them it's a broken and unsustainable business model. How in the world can we finally get the price of my ticket back down when everything else in the business seems to be planning to raise the prices higher?

Oh, I see I can e-mail him. I wonder if he'll respond.


I'd just like to see a wider range of prices, and not just student rush or lottery. If people are willing to pay $500 for a premium ticket, more power to 'em, as long as I can pay $30 for rear mezz. $65 or more for the last row of the Gershwin is absurd (no idea if that's actually the price at Wicked, it was just the first big barn theater that popped into my head), as is being expected to wait in line with a bunch of pre-hags for two hours for the *possibility* of getting a cheap ticket. I remember seeing Angels in America for $10 at a Wednesday matinee. The balcony of the Kerr feels like it's 17 stories above the stage, but it was $10. Of course, I think the top price was $70, but still. They had a scale of prices based not just on location, but performance schedule, so a poor college student like me could see the show for cheap AND plan in advance to make sure I saw it on my school break. What happened to THAT?
Let’s start off with a little historical perspective. Since the days before there was a Times Square or Broadway, theatre has always catered to the upper classes and the upper middle class. The classics were most common fare for the well educated. Musicals were, in essence, developed for the "tired business man" to look at chorus girls. Burlesque and vaudeville were the entertainment for the working and middle class until radio and film. In the last 20 years, the Broadway audience has, in fact, gotten much more middle class. Secondly, except for the brief period with the WPA and the Living Theater, Broadway has always been a commercial venture. From Junius Brutus Booth to James O'Neill to David Belasco to Oscar Hammerstein to the Shubert Brothers to David Merrick to Disney Theatrical, the primary aim of American Producers is to make a profit. In Britain the theatre is subsidized and hence the lower ticket price but that's not the American model. For an article on modern Broadway investing, go Broadway Backers by Constance Gustke in the 03/01/2004, Worth Magazine. There the basics of how Producers get monies from Investors in return for a potential average return of 38 per cent are detailed. In the 2006-2007 season revenue increased 8.9 percent to a record $939 million in the 12 months ending May 27. This speaks well for the ticket sales side of Broadway. The merchandise and ancillary sales are not disclosed. If the Broadway weren’t making a lot of people a lot of money, there would be a lot of dark houses. Also understand that Mel Brooks had little of his own money in either “The Producers” or “Young Frankenstien”. Robert Sillerman From Clear Channel is part of a large investor pool. One reason Brooks is making so much money was his decision to drop out of the Writers Guild at the start of “The Producers” to avoid paying the 3% fees on all royalties. He was a good union man until it came time for him to contribute to the organization that protects writers. The flaw in your logic is that the business model is broken but demand for tickets is so high you can't afford them. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic. Ticket price is driven by demand. The Producers argue that the need for reduced labor costs (which comprise about 8% of your ticket) is to recoup for their Investors faster. Perhaps once the Investors have been repaid then a portion of each house could be mandated to have x many seats sold at a steep discount. However the Theatre Development Fund Half-Price ticket booth already covers a lot of that area. BTW, despite what Reidel says about them, the rich think the poor suck. Reagan said the poor go to bed hungry because they’re on a diet. That’s just cold.


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