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Broadway on Tour: A Primer

Given that two of our three upcoming projects are touring productions of their Broadway counterparts, we thought it prudent to briefly outline touring economics for those not yet familiar with the structure of a First-Class Equity* touring show.

Typically, a First National Tour (often referred to in the industry as a “Bus and Truck Tour” since that is how the show and its cast, costumes, sets, lighting, props, etc. travel from city to city) is a production that crisscrosses the country playing short stints (typically one 8-show week per city) at pre-scheduled markets (Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, etc) that most frequently are supported by patrons through Seasonal Subscriptions. A Subscription Series in the case of the Hollywood Pantages Theater in Los Angeles, for example, is a Season Package with different pricing tiers where one can select from the Season Lineup of seven shows and see some or all of the offerings. In addition, separate from these Season Packages, the box office sells individual tickets to the public at large, however subscribers have the advantage of a reserved seat to a potentially hot show well in advance and therefore make up the majority of ticket sales.

This subscription model is extremely attractive to the production because it is given a Weekly Minimum Guarantee to appear at the venue (unlike on Broadway, where it’s essential renting the space – called “four-walling” – with no guarantee of sales).

When the “Bus and Truck” arrives in town to load-in, the theater, frequently in conjunction with a local presenter, hands the production a check. After that minimum, there is still a profit share between the production, the venue, and a local presenter (if applicable). So, as you probably guessed, the idea is to “back into” your weekly operating budget around this Minimum Weekly Guarantee. If nothing goes wrong, and there are no unexpected expenditures, a production spending wisely should recoup its capital if it grosses its Guarantee (with perhaps a $80,000 per week profit overage). This is essentially how the HEDWIG tour is structured. Trucks travel on a Monday and load-in Tuesday morning. Then immediately, the show performs Tuesday night, twice on Wednesday, once on Thursday and Friday, twice on Saturday and finally once on Sunday afternoon before packing up, loading-out and starting again, traveling to a new city on Monday. This particular tour is primarily playing major cities in the North with the exception of a few stops in Dallas, Charlotte and Durham. If it meets its guarantee and makes an average of $80,000 a week profit, it’ll easily recoup its capital. Broadway’s Darren Criss is performing in the first eight weeks of the tour so our hope is that we are profitable by the time the tour is in its final month.

The HAMILTON Chicago tour is structured a little differently from the HEDWIG tour as HAMILTON in Chicago is considered a “Sit-Down” or extended stay. Dubbed the “Eliza” tour, (successful shows commonly name various touring companies of a Broadway production after characters in the show to easily differentiate them), this production could play in Chicago for a year or 10 years, depending on sales before moving on to other, yet to be determined, cities. In order to get tickets, you could purchase individual tickets (mostly sold out), a Group Sale via Broadway in Chicago (sold out), a Season Subscription through Broadway in Chicago (sold out) which would also allow you to see “Aladdin, “The Curious Incident,” and “Hedwig,” though the Season Subscription seats are only reserved for a few weeks in the run.

As noted by the above grouping, however, one of our strategies behind joining the HEDWIG tour (which was afforded to the Fund as a result of personal investments we made a few years ago in the Broadway run), is that HEDWIG is able to piggyback on the HAMILTON tour. People will buy a subscription wanting to see HAMILTON, and then as part of their subscription will also see HEDWIG.

The New York Times covered the fascinating two-year strategy many regional houses are using to bolster their seasons using HAMILTON as a marketing ploy.

In order for someone to see HAMILTON on its US National Tour in 2017-2018, (separate from the Chicago “Eliza” company and to be capitalized at a later date), one will have to purchase a Season Subscription to the 2016-2017 Season which then gives that patron the first chance to renew his/her Subscription for 2017-2018 (and see HAMILTON). Therefore, the HEDWIG tour of 2016-2017 should benefit from an increased subscriber base even if HAMILTON plays at the venue the following season.

*Actors Equity Association (commonly referred to as “Equity”) is the American labor union representing the world of live theatrical performance. “First Class” differentiates this version from regional and amateur productions sure to be produced long after the First Class production has ended its run.


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