Preaching the gospel of industrywide cooperation and marketing of the Broadway name, Jed Bernstein will get his first opportunity this month to sell his flock on the future.
In September, Bernstein took over as head of the Broadway trade group, the League of American Theaters and Producers. Their biennial meeting in Tampa, Fla. three weeks hence will provide Bernstein’s first face-to-face not only with his New York constituents, but also with the presenters and producers who made the road the engine that now drives commercial live theater, out-pacing Broadway grosses 2-to-1.
Bernstein, an amiable 40-year-old former marketing executive, is clearly relishing the upcoming encounter.
“This industry has to reinvent itself or it’s going to lose another generation of people; it’s already lost one,” he insists. “We have to go about expanding, building, leveraging the audience for live theater.”
The road began to dominate North American grosses in the early ’80s, prompting a major change in the way Broadway producers viewed their colleagues Out There. Suddenly, the League of New York Theaters and Producers became the League of American Theaters and Producers. And now, two-thirds of North American legit’s $1 billion-plus annual take is earned on the road.
For Bernstein, the bottom line is “the commonality of experience” that links theatergoers throughout the country.
“There is a commonality between Carol Burnett and ‘Les Miz,’ he insists. “They both offer stature, excitement and spectacle. And each represents an experience unduplicatable – except as a live event.”