According to a Research International study released by the League of American Theatres & Producers, attempts to bring young people to Broadway have been working.
"Who Goes To Broadway? A Demographic Study of the Broadway Audience 1997" notes that since 1991, the number of theatregoers under 18 has more than doubled, from 500,000 to 1.1 million. Not only that, since the early 1980s, young people at the theatre have increased 162 percent.
Jed Bernstein, executive director of the League, sees the study as important because it "helps measure the impact of industry programs and provide direction for new initiatives."
Bernstein cites the Kids Night On Broadway program as a strong initiative (it started as a New York phenomenon in 1997, then rolled out to 25 cities in 1998). Not mentioned but also likely factors in the Ponce de Leonization of Broadway are the success of Disney's long-running Beauty and the Beast and new juggernaut, The Lion King. Also, the European megamusicals Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon and Les Miz figure strongly for young audiences. For older teens, Rent is also a magnet.
So concerted is Broadway's push for kids, TV commercials for the current Sound of Music revival nearly bypass the show altogether and concentrate on a Hallmark-type story of a mother remembering the first time her mother took her to the theatre. *
The League survey had more to say about Broadway audiences than just the youth factor. Requests for a toll-free Broadway hotline were met by the League's "Broaday Line" (888) 411-BWAY, initiated months ago. Potential theatregoers also want easier access to tickets, more travel packages and staggered performance times. The latter hasn't happened yet (the two and a half hour Lion King, two hour and forty-five minute Cats, and three-plus hour Les Miz still start at 8 PM on weeknights), there is some talk of varying curtain times. Cabaret, at the Kit Kat Klub, starts at 7:30 PM, while Beauty and the Beast and 1776 offer 6:30 PM Sunday performances.
As for the demographics of Broadway audiences, the study says slightly more than half come from New York City and the suburbs, the rest from regional and international tourism. More than half of the tourists buy tickets before coming to Manhattan, though foreign visitors are more likely to wait until they've arrived before making ticket purchases.
And how many shows does the average Broadway theatregoer catch? Four.
The League of American Theatres and Producers (the League), which promotes and, to some extent, regulates activities in the Broadway theatre district, has more than 400 members, comprising theatre owners, operators, producers and presenters. Among the League's programs are the annual "Broadway On Broadway" concert and the recent NBA All-Star promotion utilizing Broadway performers.
-- By David Lefkowitz