I know a guy who likes to gleeful pronounce that “Theater is dead!” in the rounded tones of his fake, transatlantic speech affectation.

He thinks it makes him sound hip and cynical, I suspect. Whatever, man, he’s a theater guy.

But a new article in Forbes would, um, support otherwise.

Forbes is doing what Forbes does; basically breaking everything down to dollars and cents. But when the numbers are this big, it’s hard to argue with the details.

It has long been my view (as anyone who has been unlucky enough to get cornered at a party by me after a couple of lip loosening cocktails will tell ya) that theater is more popular, more widespread, more culturally significant right now than at any point in history. That doesn’t mean it’s better or more vibrant, those are questions for another blog.

But lemme just drop this tidbit from the article: Phantom of the Opera has made to date just over 6.2 billion dollars. I wrote that correctly, “Billion” with a big ole “B”. In contrast, the largest movie of all time, Avatar, has made 2.8 billion. Do the math.

How here’s the real kicker that keeps the struggle real. The price of keeping a show on Broadway is like 700 thousand bucks a week, so even with those astronomical numbers, the profit margin is pretty slim. But you can’t argue with the reach and cultural significance of a show that’s pulling that kind of attendance and getting those ticket prices.

So I would simply add that even though theater’s reach is gigantic as shown by the box office numbers, it’s not putting a ton of money directly into the pockets of the folks doing it. And in fact for the most part, it costs money, especially for the little guys.

But it’s never been more important and more influential.

Now go stand in front of people you don’t know and make them listen to you sing “To Dream the Impossible Dream” or, hell I don’t know, “Yorktown” from Hamilton. Maybe they’ll give ya a couple bucks.




1 reply
  1. T
    T says:

    True, though the better point may be that with profit margins so slim, it will always be the smaller theatres that will in the end matter most.


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