Tony award-winner Oslo can expect a 22 per cent boost to takings after walking off with the honours at Sunday’s Broadway bunfight. A Financial Times analysis of box-office receipts over the past 15 years shows that a Best Play win usually has a dramatic effect, and that could be a boon this year when ticket sales for plays have been weak.
While Broadway as a whole set a new record high last season by grossing $1.45bn, plays contributed less than $160m — just over 10 per cent of overall takings. Oslo, which is based on the true story of events leading up to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and Palestine, has grossed $6.3m since beginning on Broadway 11 weeks ago.
“It’s really a tent pole moment. With every show that comes to Broadway, you have a few moments that determine trajectory,” said Emily Hammerman, vice-president of Account Services at TodayTix, a mobile ticketing app for theatre. “When the awards season shakes out, you sort of have a moment where you make another decision about the life cycle of a show.”
In the past 15 years, all plays that have won a Tony for Best Play have seen an uplift in takings immediately after the awards of between 7 and 48 per cent.
Historically, that uptick has continued into the summer for winners, whereas nominated plays that did not win experienced a 6 per cent decrease on average compared with the week after the Tonys.
The winner for Best Musical, Dear Evan Hansen, can also expect a takings boost. The musical about a teenage boy struggling to fit in is scheduled to go on tour in 2018, and the wins are certain to help with ticket sales.
“The Tonys — it’s such an amazing vote of confidence that the community has in the show,” said Benj Pasek, one of the show’s composers and lyricists. “We don’t know what will happen to it next, but we’re so excited that we feel like the theatre community has embraced the show.”
But there is hope for shows like Groundhog Day and Miss Saigon, which did not walk away with big wins. While the Tony Awards are one milestone in a show’s life cycle, they are not the crucial factor. Innovation in data analysis, audience modelling and dynamic pricing in the past five years have also come into play.
“It’s not the end-all on a show’s success. Data is the fuel for a lot of these shows, of the way they’re selling,” said Damian Bazadona, founder and president of Situation Interactive, a marketing company specialising in live events and theatre.
Now, producers and ad agencies will be busy working on promos to either capitalise on a Tony win or find a way to spin a loss.
Top prizes of the night went to Dear Evan Hansen for Best Musical; Oslo for Best Play; Hello, Dolly! for Best Revival of a Musical; and August Wilson’s Jitney for Best Revival of a Play. Thirteen shows, including War Paint and Sweat, were nominated for awards but left with zero.
Last year Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton dominated the “HamilTonys” with 16 nominations and 11 wins. This year, wins were shared among 12 shows.
“We’ve created a bit of urgency and fear in the ticket-buying public that they shouldn’t wait long when a title appears to be hot. And that will serve the greater Broadway industry for years to come — a hit begets a hit,” Ms Hammerman said.
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