Broadway Discovers Capitalism


I, of course, have no problem with this practice.  I do, however, find it deliciously ironic that the delicate Lefties that enjoy and embrace theater are so willing to allow such an evil concept as “free market pricing” to invade their world.  Then again perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.  Conservatives are more charitable than Libbers.  And while the charity of choice for the cons is the church, the charity of choice for the libs is the arts.

Anyway, it appears that Broadway shows are not meant for the 99%.

The producers of Hugh Jackman’s song-and-dance-and-bump-and-grind show on Broadway were so bullish about his popularity that, even before the first performance last month, they raised prices from $155 to $175 on dozens of orchestra seats for the 10-week run. The bet is now paying off handsomely, so much so that the producers are increasing premium prices for the best seats in the house: what were $250 tickets are now going for $275, $325 or even $350, depending on the demand at particular performances.

I happen to think that this is a wildly fantastic idea.  I think that people who sell tennis shoes should charge what the market would bear.  I think the same thing about pumpkins and pencils as well.  That Broadway shows be exempt is silly to me.

And roof that this works?

“Have I ever paid anything close to $600 for a pair of tickets? No,” John Joyce of Rockville Centre, N.Y., volunteered on Monday after mulling a range of prices at the Broadhurst Theater box office. “But my wife wants to see Hugh. It’s the holidays and it’s a surprise for her. So I think it’s worth it.”

So I think it’s worth it.

But doesn’t this type of free market based capitalism negatively impact the theater?

…a supply-and-demand strategy that is a primary reason why Broadway has weathered the economic downturn unusually well.

To the contrary.  Because of this strategy, the industry is booming and allowing all kinds of people to enjoy continued economic success.

And perhaps the most inspiring aspect to the story is how these Lefties have intuited and come to an understanding of what this all about.  See, in the past, when these shows would sell tickets at dictated prices, not market based prices, tickets would be scooped up by companies and resold at their proper level.  But this only benefited the ticket resellers and the consumer; not the producers of the shows, the folks who performed and invested money.  This now is taken care of:

The producers of Mr. Jackman’s show said they turned to dynamic pricing to help ensure that their investors and creative team — not ticket resellers — would be the ones profiting from high-cost tickets.

“People are prepared to pay a lot more than we’re charging, but nobody in the theater industry would have benefited,” said Robert E. Wankel, president of the Shubert Organization, a producer of Mr. Jackman’s show and the Broadway landlord for his theater. (It is Broadway theater owners who take the lead in setting ticket prices, with input from producers.) “By doing it through dynamic pricing, at least the people who do the work and took the risk are getting some benefits.”

See?  They understand.  They understand that the people who work and risk ought be rewarded.  This is very consistent with what we believe should take place in other markets as well.

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13 comments
  1. Moe said:

    [in the past, when these shows would sell tickets at dictated prices]

    When was that pino? I’ve worked in theatre off and on for years and never heard of it. Plus $150 to $200 tix have been common for years now. If they can pull it in for (OMG I love him!) Hugh Jackman, cool. The audience of course is not necessarily the regular theatre audience. They’re coming to see hteir favorite movie star.

    (Before X-Men, before he was a ‘star’, Jackman did a lot of Broadway shows. He’s one of the best.)

    • pino said:

      When was that pino? I’ve worked in theatre off and on for years and never heard of it.

      By dictated I mean a price that is set by the theater administration, and not variable to market conditions. This is what allows ticket “agents” to scoop up tickets to Broadway shows by the dozen and scalp ’em for more than face value. What the theaters are now doing is acting as the scalper themselves!

      If “Johnny” in his dark trench-coat on the corner can get $425 for a Jackson show, why shouldn’t the House do that instead?

      I say they should! They are correct in saying that it is the house, the investors and the actors that should benefit from that market and not the scalpers. Further, I suspect that as these Houses begin to see the take per show increase, they’ll provide more shows ultimately allowing more and more people to see the show than otherwise would have been able to in the past.

  2. Almost every Democrat and everyone on the left is a believer in market capitalism. You’re setting up a straw man, acting is if the left were anti-capitalist or didn’t understand/use the market. Maybe radicals — which are a tiny percentage of Democrats (most radicals leave the party because it is a pro-market capitalist party) hate capitalism, but that’s rare. Now capitalism isn’t perfect, and the left believes that there are more justifiable interventions in the market than does the right (though its a matter of degree — the right believes in justifiable market interventions as well).

    • pino said:

      You’re setting up a straw man, acting is if the left were anti-capitalist or didn’t understand/use the market.

      I’m not so sure.

      If that were the case, you wouldn’t see legislation limiting fees that banks can charge merchants for using debit cards. If it were true that the Left understood markets and capitalism you wouldn’t then see the SAME Senator who created that legislation stand on the Senate floor and excoriate those banks and encourage their customers to leave them and go find smaller community banks.

      Now capitalism isn’t perfect, and the left believes that there are more justifiable interventions in the market than does the right (though its a matter of degree — the right believes in justifiable market interventions as well).

      Perhaps this is more true. While I don’t think the Left believes the market is going to provide the best results, they do feel it is a useful tool in manipulating society.

      • I tend to see both the left and right at wanting what is best, and both valuing individual liberty and justice. They just have different perspectives on what that means — and ideologically they are very close to each other (most of them) because they share core values. That’s one reason why we can have such long term political stability with peaceful shifts either direction — we’re mostly in agreement on core goals and values. It’s the operational part — when do markets work best, what’s the best tax rate, what is best to spend money on, etc. — that differences arise. Even then the level of agreement is great. The US and the UK each had a left emerge that embraced capitalism (we didn’t have strong socialist movements), reflecting something about both the cultures of the two and their gradual moves towards democracy.

      • Moe said:

        I think it’s also true that the left is more supportive of public/private partnerships. Many of which have launched entire industries where hudnreds of companies were formed and became very successful.

  3. Moe said:

    I think you have it right Scott. I’v known exactly one person who has a gripe with capitalism. To the extent htat there are disagrements it’s all a matter of degrees. Even Adam Smith wrote that capitalism uncontained or unregulated would be destructive. But we’re all capitalists.

    pino, what you’re sayihg about tix prices – your point is valid for hit shows, especially those iwth celebrity stars or limited runs. But before a show opens, no one knows if it will fail or succeed. And it is there that the ticket agents make all the difference – they’ll often buy blocks in advance of the opening and htat activity encourages sales in general. In any case, Broadway has become more successful in the last 15 years which is great!

    • pino said:

      your point is valid for hit shows, especially those iwth celebrity stars or limited runs. But before a show opens, no one knows if it will fail or succeed.

      And the market shall set you free!

      From the same article:

      The art of pricing ran into unpredictable demand during some previews of the Jackman show, when the producers ended up selling tickets at the discount TKTS booth in Times Square for five performances as recently as Nov. 9. It wasn’t until rave reviews from critics on Nov. 11 that the show was deemed “clean” — no further discounts would be needed because the pace and volume of ticket sales were on track to virtually sold-out performances.

  4. nickgb said:

    “In other news, it appears that NASCAR tickets are sold at predetermined prices. Because of the absolute devotion to unrestrained free markets that all conservatives believe in, they were forced to protest by boycotting the events. NASCAR was closed its doors.”

    You’re becoming overly shrill. “Delicate liberals”? Please.

    • pino said:

      In other news, it appears that NASCAR tickets are sold at predetermined prices. Because of the absolute devotion to unrestrained free markets that all conservatives believe in, they were forced to protest by boycotting the events. NASCAR was closed its doors.

      That’s funny. I’m a NASCAR fan [after, of course, being a NASCAR maker funner–I’m from the North after all] and I’ve noticed the massive number of empty seats in recent years. I bemoan this to my wife, and consistent to my free market kinda ways, wonder why they don’t price tickets to sell out the joint?

      In fairness, I should post it.

  5. nickgb said:

    And while we’re at it, it turns out your charity of choice is not very good at being a charity:
    “According to the Empty Tomb report, U.S. churches devote more than 85 percent of their spending on “congregational finances” such as salaries, utility bills and brick-and-mortar maintenance. Religious charities, meanwhile, can focus on serving people outside their institutions. ”

    I assume you’ll be taking your free market charitable contributions to someone who knows how to administer the funds with better than 15% efficiency?

    • pino said:

      And while we’re at it, it turns out your charity of choice is not very good at being a charity:

      I know that you wouldn’t ever ask to see it, but I’ll try and pull numbers for what my church does with it’s money.

      Religious charities, meanwhile, can focus on serving people outside their institutions. ”

      Yes. I suspect that this is true. The larger charities that have State, National or even International footprints can leverage their monies better than a local church.

      I assume you’ll be taking your free market charitable contributions to someone who knows how to administer the funds with better than 15% efficiency?

      You assume correctly. My church sponsors several charities. I donate directly to them.

      I do not often contribute to the general fund at church; I.E. Offering Plate donations. It’s all directed giving.

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