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When did Broadway shows became tourist attractions?

Inigomontoya
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Hi,
I'm giving a presentation about musical theater history and among other things I'd like to talk about how Broadway shows used to target mainly people who lived in Manhattan and after some time (during the late 70's maybe?) started becoming more of a tourist attraction for both out of town and international tourist.

What I really want to know is how did it affect the content of the shows(I'm guessing Disney entering Broadway is one element), when and why did it happen(lower crime rates or I don't know what)

I could be completely wrong, and if so I'd love it if you can correct me before I make an ass of myself in front of my classmates :)

Updated On: 10/25/12 at 08:44 PM
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aasjb4ever
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I think Disney didn’t help the situation…but really, Broadway isn’t that much of a tourist attraction any more. Now it’s just people that come to forever 21 superstores and applebee’s in Times Square that tourists come for.
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qolbinau
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If there is a visual element to your presentation, make sure you use "affect" in the sentence "How did it affect" instead of effect..
"It’s the fractured quality in [Bernadette Peters'] singing voice and line readings that puts across the character as someone for whom resentment is sliding into madness." - NYtimes on Follies (2011).
Inigomontoya
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Sorry, English is really hard for me, I try my best with google translate but sometimes I still make errors...

I'd still love to know more about the question I asked.
Dollypop
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I believe this all started in the late 60's and early 70's when Mayor John Lindsay marketed NYC as "Fun City".
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egghumor
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To the OP:
Every poster on this board can probably make their own particular argument for "when" Broadway shows became tourist attractions, but what immediately came to mind for me was when Mae West stepped on stage in SEX, her 1926 play. Critics were unimpressed, but audiences flocked to it until the show was shut down by police in 1927.

The other thing that came to mind was discovering while I lived in NYC during the 1970/80s that shows like OH, CALCUTTA!, DANCIN' and CATS had extra long runs due to their appeal to non-English speaking, international tourists. I assume the same is largely true for MAMMA MIA! and other shows.

Disney has played a huge role as other have concurred.

By the way, Dollypop, your post made me recall when Mayor Lindsay appeared onstage in SEESAW during the hooker's number.
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EricMontreal22
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It always has been, to some extent, IMHO. My grandma talks about her trips every few years to go to New York and they'd always make sure--amongst other things, to take in South Pacific, or whatever the one or two big shows at the time were. (And, honestly, despite the fact that the golden age of the Broadway play may be gone, these shows tended to always be musicals, I think anyway--partly because people knew the songs from the radio, had seen performances on Ed Sullivan, etc).

I recently read an essay from Clive Barnes in 1974, which was amusing on several levels. One was he addressed the fact that at the time people were proclaiming the death of American theatre--he thought it could be argued it was healthier than it ever had before, and said that people had probably been saying that since at least the 1890s, a decade after Broadway shows really became mass appeal (he also pointed out that there was only a brief time before movies really took over that slot--and then TV). But he pointed out how Off and Off Off Broadway, as well as regional theatre had suddenly become more important and healthy than ever before.

He also addressed that many people wouldn't go into town anymore because they would read, or hear from talk show hosts, that going into town, having dinner, seeing a show, and the threat at the time (which he said was much over-exagerated) of being mugged right outside your theatre was scaring people away--including the tourist trade. I just found it amusing because, aside from the fact that that area is known to be much more safe now, nearly everything he said (and I admit, Barnes seemed to look down on musicals, and focused on non-musicals) is still said. Some things have maybe gotten worse, perhaps some things better, but...
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CATSNYrevival
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I'd guess that it started in the early 1900s with the Ziegfeld Follies.
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Nickhutson
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It really was started in London with the mega musicals (Cats, Les Miserables and Phantom) that played to packed out houses of tourists.

Certainly the 2nd wave of this was Disney's input; making Times Square a lot safer (but no less attractive) and providing an audience for shows for years to come.

But it's mostly thanks to the British. :)
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I'm with CatsNYRevival -- it was pretty much from the begining.
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SoonerOrLater
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I'd agree (and not just because I'm British) that the 'British invasion' had a lot to do with it. The 'mega musicals' of Andrew Lloyd Webber are accessible to non-English speakers and also don't require a deep understanding of plot to follow. Again many had break away pop hits that people beyond the theatre going community would know.

These weren't the first but they certainly started a resurgence in tourism for theatre, and as stated Disney gave it another boost.
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henrikegerman
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As others have said, Broadway theater has always been a destination, something to do when you are in New York, and New York has always been a major tourist attraction. Out of towners thronged to see shows all through the 20th Century.
chris d
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I think Inigomontoya might be focusing on the recent tourist trend, which is more global and franchise-based (as well as family-based) than ever. I think that certainly started with CATS.
Jon
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The difference is that prior to the 1970's, theatre tickets were relatively cheap, and there were always plenty of shows with tickets available. Tourists could come to NYC without having purchased any tickets in advance, and there would be plenty of options available. There were many more shows playing, and usually only the two or three biggest hits were sold out. Now, people buy tickets months for big hit shows.
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The Book The Season by William Goldman looks at Broadway during the 1968 season and he discusses the number of NYC tourists who either come to New York to specifically see a show or see a show as part of their vacation.
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bobs3
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In the late 1960s a few theaters started accepting American Express credit cards. Before that, you either had to use a check or cash at the box office (or a ticket agent) or if you were from out-of-town you could write to the box office for tickets and mail a check (listing alternate dates). Some shows took phone orders where you pay for and pick up your tickets at will call before the show.
AnythingGoes23
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It was really the Brit musicals that made the hugest impact. The shows were the first "mega" musicals with advertising and marketing campaigns behind them. They were musicals anyBODY could see regardless of age and language - they made them extremely lucrative to the tourist marketing more than ever.

In the late 70's New York also launched the "I Love NY" campaign that featured Broadway and the season's shows at the heart.

So its mainly the big brit musicals happening in the 80s (and of course American ones that followed) and the developing tread od marketing and advertising...
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mikem
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One thing that has changed over time is the recipe for recoupment. For musicals, the length of time they need to run to recoup has increased, which means they need to cater to a broader audience to run for that length of time. And that means catering to tourists to some extent.

For plays, the current recipe of very short runs with big stars in revivals is relatively new. Of course, the general concept has always existed, but it seems that almost every play revival (and many new plays) is only planned to have about a 3 or 4-month run, which is shorter than in the past. And, outside the non-profits, these short runs often seem to be produced with a tourist audience in mind.

There's a bit of a vicious circle here with the plays. Costs are higher, so ticket prices are higher, so a show has to be an easier sell to get someone to pay the higher prices, so that involves stars who might not want to commit to longer runs, so the costs are higher and there is a shorter time to recoup, so ticket prices are higher, etc, etc. I personally find the trend to be very concerning, but I'm not sure it's going to stop any time soon.
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PalJoey
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As you can tell from the answers, your question was posed inaccurately.

Rather than ask "when did it become a tourist attraction," you might be better off asking "How did the different waves of New York tourism affect Broadway"?

That way you can go back as far as you need to: to the Disneyfication, the British megamusicals, the 1960s, the post-WW2 "golden age"--or even farther.
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newintown
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Economically, tourism was nowhere near what it is today prior to WWII. Distant travel was mostly for the upper middle class and the rich.

Oklahoma! played to soldiers passing through NYC or on leave, which was new audience paradigm for Broadway; prior to that, Broadway shows were mainly for New Yorkers and those who lived within a brief train ride.

After WWII, the American middle class boomed, and travel/tourism became, gradually, a much bigger business than ever before.
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finebydesign
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"I'd guess that it started in the early 1900s with the Ziegfeld Follies."


I couldn't agree more here. I understand there are quite a few jaded theatre-queen cynics ready to lambaste theatre today, but the whole point of maximizing your profit has always been there. Even the greats tailored songs that would be hits and sell records. There has always been a push to make things an "event" or spectacular.

Sure "art" can happen in commercialism but you can't make $$$ when your audience isn't showing up. The late 19th century was when touring become a thing, I believe. At least back then, theatre was reasonable! Time Square is the most visited place in the US, why not deliver?
bobs3
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Tourist trade on Broadway definitely started with the Ziegfeld Follies, followed by the introduction of LIFE Magazine which introduced Broadway photos across the country. The 1940s brought hits like Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma, South Pacific and the introduction of the 33 rpm OBC LP. As a previous poster noted, television changed everything. Toast of the Town (Ed Sullivan) regularly had Broadway performances on his show. The 1950s really introduced the business travelers to Broadway who would enjoy an evening in the theater after a day of meetings. My Fair Lady and The Music Man became must see shows and people would travel from the across the country just to see them and it was around the same time that the Boeing 707 went into service and you could fly non-stop from the west coast to NYC. I could go on and on...but there have always been tourists at Broadway shows since the early 20th century.