A new coalition of independent theatre producers, call The Producers Network, is expected sometime on Thursday, Oct. 29, to approach the League of American Theatres and Producers -- Broadway's powerful producing guild -- with a series of proposals which would radically alter the way theatre tickets are priced and purchased.
The Producers Network is the brainchild of Stewart Lane, the co-manager of the Palace Theatre and veteran producer of such productions as La Cage aux Folles , 1776 and Wait Until Dark . He formed the organization last month in reaction to the vast changes the New York theatre has seen since the advent of Disney, Livent, and the reinvention of Times Square. It is Lane's hope that independents can put their heads together and hatch pioneering notions on how to best benefit from the theatre's rapidly changing landscape.
The Network's initial proposals, however, dwell almost exclusively on the pricing and availability of tickets. Taken together, the three ideas, if applied, could see ticket prices alternatively soar and dip with a heretofore unseen flexibility.
Perhaps the group's most expansive suggestion concerns the application of a new set of pricing principals patterned after the airline industry. Under this plan, theatre tickets prices would fluctuate with supply and demand, much as plane fares do. Thus, during "off-peak" periods -- say, January, a typically slow time for Broadway sales -- the cost of admission to a show would lessen. Similarly, producers could hike up tickets prices for an extremely popular show. Such a system might see Cabaret tickets, for example, go for considerably more than the current $80 top mark, while the struggling Footloose might sell for less than standard levels.
This is not the first time the airlines have been invoked in the saving of Broadway. Two years ago, the Broadway Initiative, a coalition of theatre production and labor forces, commissioned the Boston firm Bain & Co., known for prescribing cures for troubled trades such at the air travel, to take a careful look at the Broadway theatre industry. A second Network proposal would reward theatregoers who buy tickets in bulk with considerable discounts. Specifically, customers who buy up to four shows at a time as a package would win reductions of up to 35%. The Network believes this set-up would encourage people to attend the theatre more often.
A direct appeal to the theatre's wealthy patrons is found in a third proposal. The plan involves house seats, those choice orchestra locations traditionally reserved for theatre professionals and their friends. The Network's plan would make a certain number of house seats available to the general public at prices of up to $150. Such tickets would be available until 6 PM of the day of the show. The plan would not be without its benefits to cash-poor theatre fans; to offset the high-prices house seats, certain mezzanine and balcony seats would be offered at reduced prices.
These proposal were born at a meeting held at Lane's home on Oct. 18, where, according to the Lane, close to 30 producers gathered. "I think I speak for the vast majority of producers," Lane said in a prepared statement, "when I say we have to increase the odds of a show turning a profit. Otherwise, we run the risk of squandering all the new talent and resources which have recently flooded our industry. "Our business is always evolving. We should be willing to try new formulas."
Lane hopes to begin a dialogue with the League about the proposals. League spokesperson Kylie Robertson said she was aware of the Network, but otherwise had no comment on its plans at this early stage.
-- By Robert Simonson