Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Broadway by the numbers

Sadly, Gratuitous Violins did not make Time magazine's list of the 25 Best Blogs of 2009. But I am part of another exclusive club.

The League of American Theatre Producers has released its demographics report for the 2007-2008 Broadway season. Among the findings: Those who saw 15 or more shows comprised 5 percent of the audience, and represented 30 percent of all tickets sold.

Coincidentally, I saw 15 Broadway shows during that time period, putting me in the top 5 percent. It's nice to be above average in something. I feel really, really special. Thanks, Broadway League!

The League also reports that:
  • Forty percent of tickets are now purchased online.
  • The typical playgoer saw 8 shows.
  • The typical musical theatre fan saw 4 shows.
  • The percentage of theatergoers who purchased tickets more than a month in advance rose to 39 percent, from 32 percent.
  • Tourists purchased about 65 percent of the nearly 12.3 million tickets sold.
  • Foreign tourists comprised more than 15 percent of attendees.
  • Word of mouth is the single biggest factor in picking a musical.
  • Critical reviews are most influential in choosing a play.
  • The average age of Broadway theatergoers was 41.5 years old.
  • Those under 18 accounted for 12.5 percent of the audience.
  • 31 percent of theatergoers live in New York state.
  • 19 of the top 25 counties from which theatergoers hail are in New York or New Jersey.
  • Other top areas include counties in Michigan, Florida, California, Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area.
As the report points out, a lot of these figures haven't changed very much over the past few years and I don't think there were any huge surprises. But two things seem significant to me:

Theatergoers under age 18 accounted for a record 1.5 million tickets. "We know that children who attend a Broadway show grow up to be loyal theatergoers,” says Charlotte St. Martin, the League's executive director.

Attendance by international visitors once again well surpasses pre-Sept. 11 levels, totaling 1.88 million tickets. "This audience stays longer and sees more shows than domestic tourists."

One statistic I'd be interested in knowing is, What's the percentage of tourists who come to New York City and don't see a Broadway show?

I know, perish the thought. But I'm sure there are a few. And with tourists playing such a big role in ensuring the health of the Great White Way, I wonder what can be done to get them in a seat?


Vance said...

hmm.. good point. I wonder who goes and doesn't see a show and why?

I know all my friends who go down to NY, a lot of them non-theatre people, all still want to see a show but usually never know what to see/how to do it/how to do it with a deal etc. and a lot just don't end up seeing anything because they're overwhelmed with dealing with getting tickets, or they see Phantom (groan).

Esther said...

Yeah, I forget that not everyone knows about the discount codes, etc. You do see a lot of people in front of the TKTS booth trying to figure out what to do! A lot of them will probably settle for something that sounds familiar, like Phantom or Mamma Mia!

Sarah B. Roberts said...

I fit none of the democraphic criteria. That's okay cause I like being one of kind. And according to, there were over 46 million visitors to New York City in 2007. I remember reading recently that the number rose in 2008. So, yeah, it's a TINY percentage of visitors who are seeing Broadway.

Esther said...

Wow, I didn't realize the percentage was so tiny. What are all of those millions of other tourists doing at night that's as rewarding as seeing a Broadway show?!

Dale said...

A friend from work went with a couple of her friends and did nothing but shop and tour around the city. They cited the expense and being overwhelmed by choice and the fact they can do a show next time. I did what I could to convince them but I'm only one man.

Esther said...

Dale, I know you did your best and that's what counts! But gosh, how many hours a day can you shop? And as much as I like touring, at some point you have to give it a rest.

I know after a full day of walking around New York there's nothing better than plopping your fanny down in a semi-comfortable theatre seat with almost no leg room. And if you go to TKTS, it's not that expensive. (Hopefully the experience is priceless.)

But I do understand being overwhelmed, especially if you're not a theatre fan or you haven't done any research beforehand.

Next time, give them your cell phone number so they can call you for immediate consultation when they're standing in front of the TKTS booth!

Dale said...

I was in the city the same time they were and I still couldn't con them into it. Silly people!

I meant to also mention that while you may not have made Time's list, you're on mine, cold comfort I know :-)

Esther said...

Awww, thank-you so much Dale. Right backatcha, buddy! I'm not really upset or surprised that Time left me off the list. Most of the blogs they included are huge. I just inhabit a very small - I like to think exclusive and discerning - corner of the blogosphere. But someday!