Sunday, January 9, 2011

Numbers and the New Year


This past week, numbers have been on my mind a lot. To start with, the first day of the New Year, 1.1.11 has significance in numerology and psychic circles. Math geeks all over the world love to play with numerical repetition. The number ‘11’ itself is believed to hold mysterious powers. The time 11:11 is believed, by some, to unlock positive gateways to the mysteries of the universe. Really? Interesting. No matter what you believe, its fun to think about.

I started my class in Entertainment Business Finance this week. While I am not a math whiz, my mind is full of liquidity, assets and ratios—and occasionally, two Tylenol. I’ve found as long as I start my projects early, take breaks and give myself time to process all the information; I’m able to complete my assignments successfully and have a good grasp on the content. I never cease to be amazed at how my mind suddenly connects and I’m able to truly understand, what up to a point, seems like Greek to me.

The Cast of In the Heights
My third number connection, this week, has been related to the many Broadway show closings. Every time a large number of shows end their run near the same time, you hear people crying out that it’s the end of Broadway. All you have to do is look at the numbers and see this is not true… especially this year. Nearly every Broadway Theater was full at the end of 2010 and there are productions waiting to fill the stages of all the theaters being vacated this month. By the end of January, 16 shows will have closed but of those, three were limited runs (Elf, The Pee Wee Herman Show and Donny and Marie), two were long running shows that are touring the U.S. (Next to Normal and In the Heights) and one is scheduled to re-open in March (Rock of Ages). Unfortunately, Women On the Verge of A Nervous Breakdown, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and The Scotsboro Boys (closed in December) were unable to find their audience or suffered primarily from negative reviews.

Historically, my biggest interest has been observing the percentage of seats filled. I suppose the main reason for this has been my frequent end-of-the-year trip to New York to see everything I can possible cram in to that visit. This year, I didn’t make the trip, having been there in March. I still watched the numbers with interest.
The percentages for Thanksgiving week were some of the lowest I’ve seen for that period. Usually, the theaters are filled to near capacity during holiday weeks. At first I was somewhat concerned, but then quickly realized, there were at least 10 more productions competing for the consumer dollar than over the past few seasons. It really does matter how you look at the numbers.

As an outsider looking in, you could look at the overall holiday grosses and see a strong banner performance for Broadway. The grosses are strong, but then you have to remember, that tickets prices have gone up $20-30 (on average) this year, per ticket. If you look at the numbers from the viewpoint of an investor or producer, you’re probably looking at the higher percentage of empty seats in addition to the bottom line. Marketers have had to work twice as hard, with so many productions running, to compete for those important holiday tourist dollars. When you factor in the increased ticket costs, the number of competing productions and the percentage of empty seats; this season may not be as impressive financially, as it is at first-glance. It is all about how you spin the numbers.

Finally, today marks the closing of a successful and award-winning Broadway run of the musical, In the Heights. When the final curtain falls on tonight’s performance, it will have completed an impressive 29 previews and 1,185 performances. Earlier this week I was listening to the cast number 96,000. In the story, that is the amount of the current lottery. The characters pin their hopes and dreams on winning that magic number. It doesn’t seem to me like a lot of money but everyone looks at numbers differently.

I want to take this moment to wish each of you the happiest New Year. May you find your magic number as you journey on.


Global Numerology: The Meaning of 11:11. Retrieved January 5, 2011 from

Hettrick, A. Broadway Shows Closing in January. Retrieved January 7th from

In the Heights Official Website. New Year pic from around the world. Retrieved January 6th, 2011 from Broadway Grosses. Retrieved January 7th, 2011 from

1 comment:

  1. Insightful reflection into the "Broadway" industry, offering many perspectives as to why this is still a growing industry. You're right, it is important to acknowledge all of the factors that influence a show to be able to properly understand why it is performing in a certain way. Keep up the great insight.