In the theatrical world, the stormy global economy has not hindered “sold out” debuts of new Broadway shows right before the holidays – and Broadway experts predict that most shows “will go on” through this worst of times.
Drew Hodges, founder of SpotCo advertising agency, believes Broadway will prove resilient, just as it has historically in deep recessionary times. “While people in the U.S. and around the world are curtailing spending, history has proven again and again that audiences turn to entertainment during challenging times, expecting value as well as escapism,” said Hodges.
As Hodges further explained, “People still have anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations, which require a special evening out in New York City. That is one fact that has never changed through history’s economic roller-coaster rides.” Broadway, he continues, “brings families together for celebrations that become a fabric of their shared memories, and helps them weather the hard times together. In short, live entertainment provides the kind of excitement and audience bonding that people crave.
“As an advertising agency,” said Hodges, “our challenge now is to recreate the special emotions of a Broadway show in our ads, really let consumers sample the experience in advance, so that they feel assured that their investment in a ticket will be well worth it ….” The proof that this approach is working as the economy struggles is in the sold-out performances for the revival of “All My Sons,” Arthur Miller’s World War II drama of outrage and longing, and the success of the hot, new musical “Billy Elliot,” about a young man’s dream of dancing.
Perhaps most importantly, live theater has always managed to adapt to and reflect the times. In fact, Hodges pointed out that there were fears that the Great Depression and the advent of the talking movie would destroy the legacy of Broadway, but instead, the 1930s turned out to be its golden age as theater eventually turned the country’s mood into an epic theme and “talking movies” became a vehicle to perpetuate the musical itself.
In a similar fashion, the Internet is enhancing the value of the Broadway experience, rather than stealing people away from it. For instance, he noted, audiences use the Internet to exhaustively research purchases: “They still will celebrate their anniversary at a Broadway show, but they will use the web to ensure they get the best value.”
SpotCo is admired for its ability to tap into the Internet to take advantage of its global community, for instance, using web marketing for show tunes to ensure its clients’ audiences are satisfied with their investment. The web not only allows people to easily research the best value for their dollar, but is a medium that encourages them to return online and listen to the songs whenever they wish. This serves to keep the Broadway experience and memories fresh, an investment that has a long life.
Hodges added that because plays are generally planned several years before opening, theater audiences won’t see anything mirroring today’s economic crisis. Instead, shows like “Shrek” represent the ultimate escapism and such large-scale productions become a huge value.
And then there’s also a new counter-cyclical aspect behind live entertainment’s resilience that has to be factored in. Broadway has gone global. As Hodges explained, “Theater and live events have become giant universal brands, often dwarfing the success of Hollywood films that go from movie theater to DVD in an instant.”
Bottom line, live entertainment and Broadway are now booming globally. And Hodges predicts that, even in hard times, the lights on Broadway will keep burning brightly.