Broadway goes mobile

Legiters tap application market

Broadway’s getting app-happy.

Mobile device application iBroadway, loaded with Rialto information guides and ticket-purchase links, just launched, and soon will be followed by another called the Broadway App. A BroadwayWorld application, affiliated with the website of the same name, has been available for download since October.

And all that’s in addition to the apps available for individual shows, such as the one for “Mamma Mia!” that allows users to paste photos of their heads onto production images and send them out to friends via email and social networking sites.

Old-fashioned theater and newfangled mobile tech may not immediately seem a natural fit. But it’s the old-school, localized nature of stage entertainment in general — and midtown-centric Broadway in particular — that makes GPS-enabled mobile devices so appealing to the theater industry.

“If you happen to be walking down 49th Street, there can be an alert that pops up and says, ‘Hey, if you go to the O’Neill Theater box office right now, there’s a deal available,’ ” says Kevin Keating, director of media platforms at Arts Meets Commerce, which launched the iBroadway app with Seattle-based mobile publisher Zumobi.

Both iBroadway and the Broadway App — the latter spearheaded by film and stage producer Dori Berinstein — aim to streamline mobile access to Broadway shows, especially for locals or tourists who find themselves in the area with a few hours to kill.

“There are pieces of information all over the Web, but I wanted a quick way to find out about the shows, how to get to them, and where to buy a last-minute ticket,” Berinstein says. “I’m trying to make the app a one-stop place for all the information you could need.”

The application also will include info for Off Broadway, touring and West End offerings, she adds. (iBroadway includes Off Broadway listings.)

BroadwayWorld looks to fill a similar niche, providing on-the-go access to content ported over from its website. So far the app has logged more than 37,000 downloads, according to BroadwayWorld editor in chief Robert Diamond.

IBroadway hit the iTunes store June 9, and Berinstein is working to get both the Broadway App, as well as a Main Stem trivia application called the Broadway Challenge, out as soon as sponsors are confirmed.

The mobile space has emerged fairly rapidly on the radar screens of legiters, as it did among the general populace.

“Three years ago, all we were talking about was search-engine marketing and Google,” says Sara Fitzpatrick, director of interactive media at Broadway ad agency SpotCo.

It’s Broadway in Chicago, the Chi subscription series that is a local outpost of touring Main Stem fare, that’s generally credited with launching one of the earliest legit-centric apps for a general theater slate, as opposed to one for an individual show. That app hit mobile devices in April 2009 and soon turned the heads of producers in other parts of the country.

The pricetag for the development and launch of an application can vary widely, from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, depending in part on the number of device functions — GPS, camera, etc. — the app will exploit.

Those functions are rapidly evolving. The recent announcement of the next-gen iPhone, with new features including video calling and video-editing capabilities, is already spurring thoughts of the attention-getting uses to which they could be put.

“The huge question is, what will all this look like in three to five years?” says Damian Bazadona of Rialto ad and marketing agency Situation Interactive. “Probably nothing like what we’re talking about right now.”

Private equity

Careful playbill examiners may notice a seemingly unlikely name mentioned in the programs for a couple of the season’s quirkier small-scale musicals: Thomas Schumacher, who, as head of Disney Theatrical Prods., is best-known for backing big-budget crowdpleasers including “The Lion King.”

Schumacher provided early seed money for both “Everyday Rapture,” Sherie Rene Scott’s semi-autobiographical vehicle now playing a Broadway transfer, and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” the downtown offering in the midst of an extended run at the Public Theater.

Schumacher was involved in both shows as an individual and not in any official Disney capacity. He declined to comment, but there’s an obvious interplay between his Disney work and the projects he supports outside of that.

Scott appeared in Disney productions “Aida” and “The Little Mermaid” (and was the only thesp to remain attached to “Aida” from the initial workshop process). It was that pre-existing relationship that spurred Schumacher’s involvement in “Rapture.”

On the other hand, he got to know the work of “Bloody Bloody” co-creator Alex Timbers through an early incarnation of the musical presented as part of a Schumacher-supported developmental program at Williamstown Theater Fest. That led to Timbers’ gig as co-director of “Peter Pan” prequel “Peter and the Starcatchers,” the Disney-developed (but not produced) title tipped for a future stint Off Broadway.

‘Phantom’ reality

Pretty soon the music of the night will be echoing through the auditoriums of seemingly every stock, amateur and education troupe in the country.

The day R&H Theatricals, the licensing arm of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Org, announced that “The Phantom of the Opera” would be available for licensing for the first time in the musical’s 24-year history, R&H was deluged with more than 125 applications to produce the show, along with about 25 requests to peruse the script and score.

That’s a one-day record for R&H, according to the company.

And just to quell skeptics about an amateur troupe’s ability to stage the technically complicated “Phantom,” R&H let two colleges and four high schools produce the show as part of a pilot program during the 2007-08 academic year.

Yep, they all had their own version of the famously falling chandelier. And they all did the full-length musical — which is a good hour longer than the 90-minute incarnation now playing in Vegas.

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