Three Ways to Look at Tourists Dominating Broadway Sales

"Times Square New York City," © 2011 JoeyBLS Photography, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

“Times Square New York City,” © 2011 JoeyBLS Photography, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Theatremania calls it “well over half,” but a more accurate characterization is two-thirds of tickets sold to Broadway shows are to people who are not from New York. How should Broadway think about this?

• It’s a problem. The home market is huge and full of theater consumers. Local customers are cheaper to reach and easier to get to repeat. Being more successful with them would mean a more reliable and profitable baseline for the Broadway theater ecosystem.

• It’s a blessing. An unending, enormous stream of people pouring into town, many of whom instantly start trying to figure out what show to buy. There’s no point in arguing with the marketplace, especially when the marketplace is as ripe as this. Besides, New Yorkers like to stay out of Times Square whenever possible.

• It’s a blessing that brings with it a risk and an opportunity. At some level, reliance on tourist dollars would be a weakness. A stronger dollar could cripple the business, for example, and content produced solely for tourists can lead to decay. But it’s a massive asset for the Broadway ecosystem, which allows it the time and space to figure out the local market and serve it better. Eventually, Broadway will need the ballast of a more robust local market, but that day is not tomorrow.

All of these are true, and, ultimately, I believe there’s room to build both.

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