Under the Influence

The percentage of Broadway shows that break even may surprise you

Every Broadway show is mounted with incredible risk and a staggering number of productions never earn back their initial investments.
Broadway street in Times Square, in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file) (Charles Sykes/Associated Press)

Broadway is often referred to as the "Great White Way."

That nickname came when the theatre district of Broadway was one the first streets in New York to be illuminated by white electric bulbs in the 1890's.

If you've been to a Broadway play, you've held a Playbill in your hand. Playbill is the name of the program you are given as you are shown to your seat. It's instantly recognizable - with its yellow masthead and the word Playbill sitting front and centre, with the name of the theatre you're sitting in under that in smaller type. Beneath the yellow masthead is a large image from the play you are about to see.

On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Broadway would resume operations this fall. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

To be an official Broadway play, it must be performed in a theatre with 500 seats or more. Theatres with 499 seats or less are officially "Off-Broadway."

Most theatre marketing is aimed at women, as 66 per cent of Broadway audiences are female. And the marketing is integral.

Only 20 per cent of Broadway shows earn back their initial investment. Which means a staggering 80 per cent never do.

Broadway shows involve incredible risk. It takes investors, a fantastic idea, a moving book, incredible songs, stellar casting, a director with vision and a producer willing to create bold marketing.

Broadway is slated to re-open in September.

The show must go on.

For stories about Broadway Marketing, click or tap the play button above to hear the full Under the Influence episode. You can also find the show on the CBC Listen app or download to our Podcast.

Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

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The Terstream Mobile Recording Studio. (Image Credit: Sidney O'Reilly)