‘This Is Broadway’ Campaign Aims to Attract Wary Theatergoers
The trade association representing theater owners and producers gets an assist from Oprah Winfrey as it seeks to drive ticket sales beyond the buzzy September reopenings.
By Michael PaulsonAug. 26, 2021
Broadway producers and theater owners, concerned about whether fans are ready to return as dozens of shows prepare to start or resume performances, have banded together for an industrywide marketing campaign aimed at persuading Broadway’s core audience to purchase tickets.
Gone are the days when the booming industry was focused on expanding its reach to tourists from China and Brazil. Now, as the longest shutdown in history nears an uncertain end, an anxious industry is more focused on bringing back fans from New Jersey and Connecticut.
On Monday, the Broadway League will begin a “This Is Broadway” campaign that it plans to roll out on screens not only across the five boroughs — at subway and bus stations, in taxis and Wi-Fi kiosks, and on a giant electronic cube in Times Square — but also through social and news media platforms with a broader geographic reach, including YouTube, Facebook, Hulu, Condé Nast, CNN, The New York Times and more. The campaign, aimed squarely at people from the East Coast who before the pandemic enjoyed seeing Broadway shows, seeks to serve as a reminder of all that Broadway offers.
The campaign is anchored by a 2.5 minute video, featuring snippets of 99 shows, such as “A Chorus Line” and “Hamilton,” and narration by Oprah Winfrey. The spots will be excerpted in 30 second, 15 second and 6 second digital ads.
The marketing material points consumers to a new website, thisisbroadway.org, that features, describes and links to sales sites for every Broadway show that will be onstage this season; two shows, “Springsteen on Broadway” and “Pass Over,” are already running, and 15 more plan to start performances in September. The site also features recommendations based on user interests, and information about safety protocols (all shows are requiring that patrons be vaccinated and masked).
“The goal is to let the world know we’re back, and, specifically, to drive ticket sales for the first six months from the Northeast corridor and the Eastern Seaboard, which is where we believe is our best opportunity to put people in seats,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League, which is a trade association representing theater owners and producers. The League has set aside $1.5 million for the campaign, but says that the campaign will have a broader reach, which they estimate will be worth more than $3 million in advertising value, thanks to discounted ad rates and support from other organizations.
The campaign is unusual for Broadway because individual shows usually do their own marketing. But this is an unusual time, when concerns about the Delta variant have made an already precarious reopening seem even more risky. The League, citing the atypical nature of this season, says it will not disclose box office grosses, but St. Martin said the industry’s September sales are strong.
“There will be shows, as there always are, that don’t do well, and I’m sure they’ll blame it on the pandemic,” St. Martin said. “But I’m very encouraged.”
Theater owners agreed to pool consumer data from a period of five years, including 17 million ticket sales in the Northeast, to improve the campaign’s targeting, and multiple unions agreed to allow the use of archival video for advertising. Collectively the spots feature 113 shows, 735 performers, and one dog (Sandy, from “Annie,” of course).
In addition to the video, the campaign will call attention to the industry in other ways as well. On Aug. 30, the Empire State Building will be lit up to celebrate Broadway’s reopening. In collaboration with Audience Rewards, there will be a contest in which one person can win four tickets to all 38 shows now on sale. And, in collaboration with Playbill, there will be a mid-September festival and concert in Times Square.
The League has been determined since the start of the Broadway shutdown in March 2020 to find a way to promote Broadway as it returns, but the focus of the campaign has shifted as the Delta variant has rattled consumers.
“The hypothesis had been that the core audience is going to come back, and we should focus on the casual theatergoer,” said Andrew Lazzaro, a consultant who helped design the campaign for the Broadway League. “But over the course of the summer, as the Delta variant took hold, positions changed — a lot of our data started to suggest that the core audience wasn’t coming back at the level we needed, and we were able to pivot.”
Lazzaro said their strategy is primarily aimed at a million people living between Maine and Virginia who, before the pandemic, were reliable theatergoers, interested in seeing what’s new on Broadway, and accounting for a disproportionate share of ticket sales, but who now may need a bit of encouragement to resume the habit.
The campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the year. It overlaps with a $30 million promotional campaign by the city’s tourism agency to lure visitors back to New York City.
Bruce Springsteen is bringing his acclaimed Springsteen on Broadway show back to the St. James Theatre for an encore run. The residency will begin June 26th and run through September 4th. Tickets go on sale Thursday via SeatGeek.
“I loved doing Springsteen on Broadway,” Springsteen says in a statement, “and I’m thrilled to have been asked to reprise the show as part of the reopening of Broadway.”
Audience members will be required to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated for Covid-19 before they can enter the theater. Proceeds from the first show will go to a group of local New York and New Jersey charities including the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Food Bank for New York City, Fulfill (Monmouth & Ocean Counties Foodbank), Long Island Cares, NJ Pandemic Relief Fund and the Actor’s Fund.
Springsteen on Broadway was born out of a special show that Springsteen played for Barack Obama and his staff in the final days of his administration. Previews began on October 3rd, 2017 and it wrapped up December 15th, 2018 after grossing over $100 million from 236 shows. The set mixed hits like “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Thunder Road” with lesser-known tunes like “The Wish” and “My Father’s House.” Patti Scialfa joined him most nights for duets “Tougher Than the Rest” and “Brilliant Disguise.”
Springsteen’s most recent LP, A Letter To You, was released in October 2020. He promoted it by playing Saturday Night Live with the E Street Band, but he has not played in public since the start of the pandemic.
Broadway Theater Owner Cited by OSHA in Stagehand’s Fatal Fall
Federal regulators cited the Shubert Organization for four workplace safety violations in the death of an employee in the Winter Garden Theater.
Federal regulators have cited the Shubert Organization for four serious workplace safety violations and proposed a fine of $45,642 in connection with the death of an employee who fell from a ladder while working at the Winter Garden Theater last fall.
The citations, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, were issued on May 11, six months after Peter Wright, a 54-year-old stagehand, fell nearly 50 feet from a narrow, raised platform while performing routine maintenance in the theater.
OSHA issues these serious citations when, according to its review, lapses have led to hazards carrying a “substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.” In the Shubert Organization’s case, OSHA did not find that the violations were willful ones, in which an employer “intentionally and knowingly” violates the law.
The Shubert Organization has set up a meeting to discuss the citations and penalties, James C. Lally, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor, said. If the two parties do not reach a settlement, the company can still contest the citations, Mr. Lally said. Otherwise, they will be obligated to pay the full amount.
A spokesman for the Shubert Organization declined a request for comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The violations issued to the group, which is the largest landlord on Broadway, included having a wooden ladder coated with a material that could obscure structural defects and two instances of a ladder used for a purpose for which it was not designed.
Mr. Wright, who was from Milford, Conn., was a stagehand for Local 1 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the labor union that represents professional stage employees in New York, for 34 years. He and his wife of 23 years, Marcie Lowy Wright, met when they were both working as stagehands for a 1990s “Grease” revival at the Eugene O’Neill Theater.
James J. Claffey Jr., the president of Local 1, wrote in a tribute in November that Mr. Wright “had a work ethic that was nothing short of exemplary, was extremely talented and skilled in his craft, and he was one of the finest riggers/flyman in our industry.”
The last show to play at the Winter Garden Theater had been “Beetlejuice,” which had been set to end its run on June 6, 2020, before the theater, like all on Broadway, shut on March 12 because of the pandemic; “Beetlejuice” was not slated to return.
A revival of “The Music Man” that will star Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster is set to begin performances in December and open next February.
Bill Evans, a spokesman for the Shubert Organization, said at the time of Mr. Wright’s death that most stagehands had not been working at the organization’s other theaters during the pandemic shutdown.
“We mourn the loss of our valued colleague,” he said in a statement. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family during this difficult time.”
Dylan Foley, who was a friend and co-worker of Mr. Wright’s, wrote in a Facebook tribute in November that Mr. Wright was “completely fearless in how he lived his life as a stagehand” and often did the work of three men.
“He had a dry wit, an unstoppable work ethic, and a trademarked grin,” Mr. Foley wrote. “If you asked for something from Pete, his line was, ‘For you, the grid’s the limit.’”
According to The Washington Post Broadway will reopen August 4 with “Pass Over”, that must be coming from Britney Spears production in Washington D.C.
It looks like this Summer they’ll be one month of plays in New York before back to school.
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That’s a lot better to be playing with down here, that’s an artist with good long sold reputation that you can see in smaller clubs, not like those big productions.
Something like that is something we can help promote on Broadway from ours across town, to help get the Four Tops play up and running.
That will help make our page bigger for our stuff, by helping get the word out for them.
Broadway producer Paul Lambert and original “Four Tops” member Abdul “Duke” Fakir are working on a musical about the legendary Motown group, Page Six is told.
They’re hoping the show, named after their legendary hit “I’ll Be There!,” will be onstage early in 2022, making it one of the first new productions to appear on the Great White Way after theaters reopen.
“They just did casting calls in LA and are now doing rehearsals,” said an insider.
They planning to start with a short run in Detroit, making it the first Motown-themed musicals ever to debut in Motor City.
We’re told they then plan to take it to the West End in the UK where, according to a source, the band has a huge following.
The Four Tops “sold out everywhere when they toured there and have a huge European fan base to this day.”
Duke and Lambert have also been working on a new single, an “environmental anthem” named “Freedom” due out on May 5, and they’re performing a Memorial Day concert on PBS.
The band, originally made up of Levi Stubbs, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton and Fakir, had number-one hits with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar pie honey bunch),” “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” and many other successes including “Ain’t No Woman” and “It’s the Same Old Song,” among many others.
The show would follow “Ain’t Too Proud,” the hit 2018 musical based on the songs of labelmates The Temptations.
We’ll just jump right in there Broadway in New York City and see what’s going on, it’s been a while since I was around any of that.
Before I even look New York is way bigger than it used to be when I was younger, like with the population increase.
They’d need like ten thousand times the size of it is today to compare to what it looked like when I was a kid, today it’s not very big looking because the city got so large.
They have a webpage anyway www.broadway.com with the shows listed on it playing on Broadway.
What is Broadway anyway? Good question…it’s a street in New York City with all the venues on it for large plays, off Broadway must be the street next to it.
Yeah, getting a good spot down there would be hard these days.
Issues like the city being too large with the reduced area for having plays, I dunno I might run mine for this page from across town.
Just for the cheaper box venue, later we’ll check the rates and see what the area looks like on the blog to see the cost of starting your own Broadway production or Off Broadway Production or Crosstown like ours.
We’ll start with a quick review of Broadway.com , they have all the plays listed for Broadway and Off Broadway with ticket sales.
Let’s see what’s playing:
They have about fifteen productions running and several off Broadway productions including surprise Phantom Of The Opera and The Lion King, I was right even before I looked…I must be still current on that play, Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire…that would be the trip to New York I guess if I was going.
That’s my opinion of the page – didn’t have time to do anything on it yet.
Here’s a walking video tour from some guy down in times square this week on Youtube.