NEW YORK — On Broadway, “lobby” is still a place to spend intermission. While legit producers and their press agents aren’t above working the phones or heating up the fax machine to remind Tony Award voters of their shows, Hollywood’s high-pressure Miramax-style lobbying for Oscar consideration has yet to sweep the Great White Way.
This year, for example, the producers of the “Annie” revival are gaining attention for a fax campaign that, by Hollywood standards, would barely register a blip on the pre-Oscar radar.
But in Gotham, where “Annie” is competing for a best musical revival Tony against frontrunner “Chicago,” the faxed cartoons depicting the comic-strip Annie and her dog Sandy (toting a sign that reads “Vote for the Underdog”) is at least generating some goodwill buzz.
“It’s adorable,” says a rival marketer. “Nobody’s going to vote for them, but at 12¢ a fax, God bless ’em.” The “Annie” producers are faxing copies of five different cartoons to about 500 Tony voters.
Last month, “Chicago” producers Barry and Fran Weissler, who once distributed containers of chicken soup to plug “Falsettos,” sent out invitations — in the form of court summonses signed by “Chicago’s” sleazy attorney character Billy Flynn — to Tony voters who had not yet seen the revival.
But for the most part, producers of the musicals rely on the tried-and-true method of distributing cast CDs or CD samplers of their shows. “Titanic” and “Steel Pier” are already in Tony voter CD players, while a shipment of cast CDs of “The Life” arrived at production offices Wednesday and will be routed to voters before the May 30 voting deadline.
The CDs are a no-lose situation for producers, since the recordings can remind voters of scores that have dimmed in memory — and since the cost of the CDs is generally picked up by the record companies.
“CDs and souvenir books are acceptable,” says Chris Boneau, one of Broadway’s top publicists, “but what we hear from Tony voters is that, while it’s one thing to be sent something informational about a show, they don’t want to feel like they’re being bribed.”
Broadway’s self-restraint doesn’t, however, extend to Tony advertising. One marketer estimates that the big musical nominees (who arguably have most to gain financially from a Tony win) increase their weekly ad budgets from the standard $50,000 to $60,000 range to anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 during the pre-Tony weeks.