Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions

zainmax
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#1
Posted: 9/26/19 at 11:21am

I read this article in FORBES, and I am curious why HARRY POTTER is not so hot anymore. Is there really less interest in the franchise nowadays, or is there simply too much competition on Bway today?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/marchershberg/2019/09/25/harry-potters-broadway-box-office-tactic-cloaks-drop-in-demand/

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#2
Posted: 9/26/19 at 11:41am

I think it is incredibly hard to keep a 2 part play selling at high premiums for this long of a run. A 2 part theatre experience comes with the air of "an event." Events have high demand and buzz at their outset, but they also have expiration dates. 

With 2 plays, you are asking much more of a commitment from tourist audiences. It becomes an entire day, or 2 nights, of your vacation. Die-hards will surely not blink an eye at this. And they havent. But how many casual Potter fans will dedicate that much of their NYC vacation to one experience? Not only does it eat up double the time, but it is double the cost. And requires additional planning to make sure you can fit both parts into your itinerary. 

None of this was as much of an issue when it first debuted and was THE ticket to get. Everyone wants to take part in those must-do experiences. But there are other must-do Broadway experiences that have debuted since. And with the family-friendly market split between Potter, 3 Disney shows, Beetlejuice, and Mean Girls, this 2 part epic was bound to dwindle in numbers. It is now less of a priority. 

It also doesn't help that the Lyric is an astoundingly large theatre. I don't know what was envisioned to go in there when they first combined the two old houses into one, but short of Lion King or Wicked moving there, I just don't know what can truly thrive in that space for an open ended run.

JennH
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#3
Posted: 9/26/19 at 12:23pm

^^^ That. But also it's significantly cheaper in London, as their Equity is even weaker than ours. You don't have to be Union at all, over there so the personnel themselves aren't paid nearly as much as ours, therefore labor costs are much less. I can't imagine that isn't part of it. 

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#4
Posted: 9/26/19 at 12:29pm

MayAudraBlessYou2 said: It also doesn't help that the Lyric is an astoundingly large theatre. I don't know what was envisioned to go in there when they first combined the two old houses into one, but short of Lion King or Wicked moving there, I just don't know what can truly thrive in that space for an open ended run."

Ragtime. Ragtime was always planned to be the first show. And the theater's capacity has been reduced to 1600 seats (approximately). I assume they won't restore the original size when Cursed Child eventually closes. 

The combination of being a two-part play and the obscene high prices, plus the fact that tourists don't buy theater tickets too far in advance, have lead to a drop in advance sales. Looking ahead, you can easily see very few seats have been sold. It's astonishing that they simply don't lower prices. This is endemic of the modern Broadway show: keep the prices where they are, even if no one's buying. As a result, they have to lower the price substantially at the last minute to sell them. Maybe only keep a small portion of the theater at premium prices, and reduce prices everywhere else. Maybe the average ticket price would improve.

zainmax
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#5
Posted: 9/26/19 at 2:25pm

JennH said: "^^^ That. But also it's significantly cheaper in London, as their Equity is even weaker than ours. You don't have to be Union at all, over there so the personnel themselves aren't paid nearly as much as ours, therefore laborcosts are much less. I can't imagine that isn't part of it."

I imagine that the newer cast is cheaper than the original cast on Bway.

zainmax
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#6
Posted: 9/26/19 at 2:27pm

Fosse76 said: "MayAudraBlessYou2 said:It also doesn't help that the Lyric is an astoundingly large theatre. I don't know what was envisioned to go in there when they first combined the two old houses into one, but short of Lion King or Wicked moving there, I just don't know what can truly thrive in that space for an open ended run."

Ragtime. Ragtime was always planned to be the first show. And the theater's capacity has been reduced to 1600 seats (approximately). I assume they won't restore the original size when Cursed Child eventually closes.

The combination of being a two-part play and the obscene high prices, plus the fact that tourists don't buy theater tickets too far in advance, have lead to a drop in advance sales. Looking ahead, you can easily see very few seats have been sold. It's astonishing that they simply don't lower prices. This is endemic of the modern Broadway show: keep the prices where they are, even if no one's buying. As a result, they have to lower the price substantially at the last minute to sell them. Maybe only keep a small portion of the theater at premium prices, and reduce prices everywhere else. Maybe the average ticket price would improve.
"

I think that ATG will keep it smaller, which makes it more marketable to shows. No producer wants to fill up a cavernous barn every night.
 

Also, I might be misreading something in the article, but aren't the producers lowering the prices? Maybe, you mean discounting v. reducing prices altogether?

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#7
Posted: 9/26/19 at 2:45pm

This is when I wonder whether scalpers actually help Broadway box offices by keeping ticket demand high. I recall early last year HP put a strong emphasis on *only* verified fans getting tickets (and that's totally fine!)

I just mention it because for Hamilton, it's pretty much a given that scalpers buy the majority of tickets when a new block of tickets is released.... and even now four years after it opened on Broadway, Hamilton is still commanding roughly $3 million in grosses each week. I'm sure some scalpers are making a killing but as we can sometimes see from ticketmaster resale the day of performance, some scalpers lose money too. Regardless, from the eyes of the Hamilton box office, advanced ticket sales are doing well (doesn't matter if the buyer is a scalper or fan.... it's still a sale) and demand is high.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#8
Posted: 9/26/19 at 2:47pm

How did they reduce the Lyric's capacity? I know they renovated the entire theatre for Cursed Child but did they block off sections of the orchestra/mezz/balcony?

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#9
Posted: 9/26/19 at 2:50pm

zainmax said: "Also, I might be misreading something in the article, but aren't the producers lowering the prices? Maybe, you mean discounting v. reducing prices altogether?"

The prices only seem to be lower closer to the performance date. I think by lowering the price on Ticketmaster a week or two before the scheduled performance, they aren't considering it as discounting, and it's this selective lowering of prices that is what is being reference as lower prices.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#10
Posted: 9/26/19 at 3:08pm

FANtomFollies said: "How did they reduce the Lyric's capacity? I know they renovated the entire theatre for Cursed Child but did they block off sections of the orchestra/mezz/balcony?"

Actually, the dress circle was extended forward, so there are more seats there, but the orchestra was significantly narrowed, removing approximately 12-14 seats from each row.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#11
Posted: 9/26/19 at 3:10pm

FANtomFollies said: "How did they reduce the Lyric's capacity? I know they renovated the entire theatre for Cursed Child but did they block off sections of the orchestra/mezz/balcony?"

I believe they narrowed the orchestra section by creating these faux walls to sort of cover up the real walls. I’m having a hard time finding it, but I believe there was a photo of this process on Instagram around the summer of 2017.

Princeton2
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#12
Posted: 9/26/19 at 3:13pm
The play itself has received mixed word of mouth, especially amongst hardcore potter fans who would be more likely to invest in seeing both parts. Plus with other productions opening up people dont necessarily have to travel to nyc to see it, they can wait for it to be a bit closer to home
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#13
Posted: 9/26/19 at 3:22pm

Princeton2 said: "The play itself has received mixed word of mouth, especially amongst hardcore potter fans who would be more likely to invest in seeing both parts."

Has it, though? Word-of-mouth from the general public is strong, not mixed, and I'd say that MANY hardcore Potter fans have seen it multiple times. Actually, I know they have, since I know several of them.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#14
Posted: 9/26/19 at 3:58pm

Princeton2 said: "The play itself has received mixed word of mouth, especially amongst hardcore potter fans who would be more likely to invest in seeing both parts. Plus with other productions opening up people dont necessarily have to travel to nyc to see it, they can wait for it to be a bit closer to home"

You could look at it that way, but I'm a megafan and have seen the show...a lot. I think fans who've seen it enjoy it overall, but I will agree there is a part of the fanbase rejecting it. 

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#15
Posted: 9/26/19 at 4:12pm
It looks worse with Harry Potter because if you don't sell a seat, then you almost automatically also have an unsold seat for the other part, but every show does this. I'm sure the producers will just rise prices again when times are better. Sonia Friedman is not a newcomer
zainmax
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#16
Posted: 9/26/19 at 4:29pm

sparksatmidnight said: "It looks worse with Harry Potter because if you don't sell a seat, then you almost automatically also have an unsold seat for the other part, but every show does this. I'm sure the producers will just rise prices again when times are better. Sonia Friedman is not a newcomer"

I feel like once people get accustomed to the lower prices, it will be difficult to jack them up again. It's not like the holiday spike.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#17
Posted: 9/26/19 at 4:56pm

Cursed Child isn't really a show that, like Hamilton, BOM, or DEH had at the outset, where it didn't even really matter if you had no idea what the show is about or if you even think you might it, but you just wanted to have the bragging rights to say you saw it before your neighbors. (As someone who worked selling tickets, I had fond memories to trying to keep folks from taking their 6 year-old to BOM back in the day.)

Yes it's a popular show, but 6 hours worth of bragging rights, not to mention using up two nights or a whole day of a NYC trip, that is an exhausting prospect,. Plus, HP already had competition from the existing London production, not to mention the theme parks, there are plenty of other ways to get your Potter fix. 



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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#18
Posted: 9/26/19 at 5:07pm

VotePeron said: "Princeton2 said: "The play itself has received mixed word of mouth, especially amongst hardcore potter fans who would be more likely to invest in seeing both parts. Plus with other productions opening up people dont necessarily have to travel to nyc to see it, they can wait for it to be a bit closer to home"

You could look at it that way, but I'm a megafan and have seen the show...a lot. I think fans who've seen it enjoy it overall, but I will agree there is a part of the fanbase rejecting it.
"

Yeah I wonder about that? Like I grew up an avid Harry Potter fan– went to the midnight releases for new books and then read them within hours, it was my first foray into online fandom, all that. The original series is still very dear to me. But I have no interest in the play. I read the synopsis and it sounds like a chimera of every bad fanfiction I read in high school. Though, for what it's worth, I haven't watched Fantastic Beasts either. The HP story felt complete to me with the seventh book (unless they make a period drama about the Hogwarts founders, that's my dream ; ) 

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#19
Posted: 9/26/19 at 5:45pm

This might be a stupid idea but shouldn't they just make the show one part?

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#20
Posted: 9/26/19 at 7:25pm

A few thoughts.

The show is brilliant. That's not why it isn't grossing as much as it did when it opened.  It's epic theater -- come on, it's John Tiffany and Stephen Hoggett.  It's such good storytelling and it's definitely a legit Harry Potter experience.  Yes, I'm a fan.

OK.  So the challenges.  No two-part play has ever run more than a few months on Broadway.  Even the brilliant Nicholas Nickleby only ran for 12 weeks and tanked on a return visit a year later.

Harry Potter had a huge opening and has now leveled out over a year into the run, a traditional pattern for many long-running musicals, never mind two-part plays!

The time and cost is a challenge, but it's an amazing experience and people are paying stupid numbers to see everything now.

Crazy idea about making it a one part show at this point, but I guess you would get twice as many unique buyers in a week and it deals with the time challenge for people coming to New York for a limited time.  Fans (yes, me as well) would do more than once.

I have no idea if it make any logistical or economic sense while the show is still making money as a two parter.

I so think Harry Potter is going to be around a while on Broadway.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#21
Posted: 9/30/19 at 7:47pm
Just saw a tv commercial for CURSED CHILD. Hadn't seen any of those before.
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#22
Posted: 9/30/19 at 7:47pm
Just saw a tv commercial for CURSED CHILD. Hadn't seen any of those before.
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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#23
Posted: 10/1/19 at 9:14am

Dollypop said: "Just saw a tv commercial for CURSED CHILD. Hadn't seen any of those before."

They started popping up right after the Times Square event. I think there are two of them. See them a lot now on local stations. I like them.

 

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#24
Posted: 10/1/19 at 4:02pm

I just got an email advertising a new discounted batch of tickets. I was able to get fifth row center on Halloween for $130/night. That's a really cheap deal and there were TONS of seats available for those dates and nearly all dates in November.

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Harry Potter's Box Office Illusions#25
Posted: 10/1/19 at 4:18pm

theatregoer3 said: "I just got an email advertising a new discounted batch of tickets. I was able to get fifth row center on Halloween for $130/night. That's a really cheap deal and there were TONS of seats available for those dates and nearly all dates in November."

These days, $130 per part is not cheap at all, especially on Thursday/Friday nights. This Thursday/Friday’s front orchestra seats are down to $76.50 per part, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to $40 the day of. The fact that there are tons of seats available on Halloween pretty much guarantees that there will be drastic price cuts before then.

Updated On: 10/1/19 at 04:18 PM