You're a Rich One, Mr. Grinch

Special Features   You're a Rich One, Mr. Grinch Does the New York stage have another Christmas tradition on its hands?
Patrick Page as The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Patrick Page as The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Photo by Paul Kolnick

It certainly looks that way, given the impressive performance of the new musical version of the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Since beginning previews at Broadway's Hilton Theatre on Oct. 25, the family attraction has been packing them in. For the weeks ending Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, it pulled off the astounding feat of beating the usually unbeatable Wicked as the top-grossing Broadway show, pulling in, during the latter seven-day period, $1.7 million and filling 96 percent of its houses.

It comes as no surprise that Grinch reached its audience when one discovers who its producers are. The people behind of two-year-old Running Subway Productions include president and executive director James Sanna, who used to be executive producer of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the granddaddy of all Gotham holiday shows. Moreover, Running Subway's vice-president of marketing, Tomm Miller, was director of promotions at Radio City.

Knowing the family-show terrain well, Running Subway chose to do the marketing for Grinch in-house. Miller knew the show's target audience: families. And families mean Mom, the woman who makes most of the familial theatre choices.

"In my opinion, moms are the busiest people on the planet," said Miller, who is a mom herself (two and one on the way). "But, also, moms are the hardest people to reach. For Broadway shows, and especially family shows, they're the ones who make the decisions. We try to reach Moms throughout their daily life by traditional and nontraditional means. Of course, we do radio and print advertising. We strategically buy in newspapers that we think moms will read. We also partner with a lot of media and transit partners—the Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit, the MTA."

Running Subway also took the Radio City route in giving folks as many showtime options as possible. Grinch plays a whopping 12 times a week, including eight shows on weekends. "Our 11 AM, 2 PM, and 5 PM shows on Saturdays and Sundays are really selling well for us, because that's when a lot of families can come," said Miller. "The older kids come to the 8 PM shows. And then there's our pricing. On all of our shows we price 10 to 15 percent below most Broadway shows and there are a lot of different pricing levels within that." "It fills the houses evenly," she added. "You have different people buying at their comfort zone."

Running Subway also reached out to schools, aiming classrooms at the 11 AM Thursday show, which Miller calls their "school show." For that performance, prices are set even lower, from $25 to $49.

All that effort has translated into one of the biggest Broadway draws of the fall. For those few members of the Grinch demographic that Running Subway missed, there's always next year: The company has a 20-year agreement with the Dr. Suess estate.

"We want to bring it back every season," assured Miller.

(Robert Simonson is Playbill.com's senior correspondent. He can be reached at rsimonson@playbill.com.)

Today’s Most Popular News: