Broadway Road Report: Tonys' National Influence

Latest study on touring Broadway reports 21% of ticketbuyers are swayed by awards

Producers grumbling about the revenue lost from all those comp tickets they have to hand out to Tony voters can now take heart: Tony noms and awards seem to be exerting a stronger influence on the ticketbuying habits of theatergoers around the country, according to a new demographic study of the audience for touring legit fare.

Tony trophies or noms pushed some 21.2% of theatergoers nationwide to pick up ducats to a touring Broadway production during the 2011-12 season, according to the latest edition of the Broadway League’s biennial study of the audience makeup for road shows. That percentage has steadily increased since it came in at 7.8% for the 2005-06 season.

An additional 11% said their decision to pick up tickets to a show was influenced by seeing a performance seg on the Tonycast, up from 3.1% in 2005-06.

There are a couple of possible explanations for the rise. For one thing, the timing coincides with the increased profile of live performance in pop culture overall, with reality TV skeins such as “American Idol” joined in the past five years by series including “Glee” and “Smash.” Tony organizers have also made an effort in the last few years to expand the awards’ reach digitally.

At the same time, kudocast producers have made a concerted effort to showcase productions beyond just the nominated titles, which have had less time to establish a national profile than the productions from prior seasons (many of them Tony winners) that have started to hit the road. Last year, for instance, the Tonycast opened with “The Book of Mormon,” the 2011 awards-magnet that’s currently on tour. During the 2011 ceremony, the 2010 Tony winner, “Memphis,” made a prominent appearance.

Besides the findings regarding increased Tony influence, there were few surprises in the League’s report, which covered the 2011-12 road season when the slate included Broadway alums such as “9 to 5,” “The Addams Family,” “Bring It On” and “Wicked.” Report was released just as the League’s spring road conference gets underway this week. As producers and presenters from around the country converge on Gotham for the annual confab, now is also the time when a lot of out-of-town Tony voters catch up on nominated fare.

Per the report, the average audience member for touring Broadway continues to look at lot like the average Rialto ticketbuyer: female, middle-aged, well-educated, well-off and white. Road auds were 70% female with an average age of 50.5 years, older than the 43.5 years averaged on the Main Stem. Auds beyond Gotham were also whiter than Broadway crowds, although theatergoers in western parts of the country proved more diverse than in other areas.

There’s also some overlap between road audiences and the tourists who power Broadway shows, with 34% of the report’s survey respondents having visited Gotham in the previous year and 82% of those having taken in a Broadway show.

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