Like the Mayan Calendar, but for NY theater!

by Smartie on January 17, 2012

Season plan accordingly!

I always advise that if you are looking for press impact, you need to plan your productions accordingly. Great advice, but… Not helpful. So I figured I would put together a neat calendar that gives a general landscape.

Just a note–schedules are always in flux and this is more of a general lay of the land than hard and fast booked schedules. And this is also for press impact, not ticket sales impact. So I am not even considering that audiences go to the Hamptons for the summer (and, by the way, that’s a myth).

Finally, more and more there is no “good” time to open, so you kind of have to grit your teeth and just do it. But, there are definitely months to avoid.


January used to be a great time to open. I would urge clients to kick off their shows on January 2nd. Who wants to spend the holidays in tech, right? Well, apparently no one minds anymore, since early January is now is chock full of festivals to coincide with APAP. And we are seeing three Broadway openings this month as well.


Broadway competition is not very heavy in this frigid month, but some of the major Off Broadway non-profits do begin to open again. This year, I like February more than January, but it’s still important to get an idea of what’s opening when before you make the plunge.


I like early March for openings, but it needs to happen within the first two weeks. Later March usually sees the lead up to the April insanity as Broadway producers cram their productions in time for the Tony Award cut off dates. This year, Off Broadway is much quieter than February, but that’s often not the case.


You have to have something really “Wow!” worthy to attempt to open Off Broadway in April. It’s a hard month. I would avoid it at all costs.


A lot of the major Off Broadway shows open now, after avoiding the April Broadway stampede. There is also the problem of the Tony nominations… Now theater coverage is geared towards features on the nominees and handicapping the awards. And, the critics are burnt out. It’s certainly better than April, but can still be a challenge.


Get the Tony’s over with, and it’s a decent time to open. Again, keep an eye on Off Broadway. Over the past few years, they have moved into later June for this very reason.


While you butt up against press on vacation, July is a pretty nice time to open. Of course, summer 2011 was buzzing with the RSC, which made summer openings a lot more complicated.


Ah August. You have to battle the NY Fringe, and that’s no fun. But I think if you open early or later August you can do OK with press impact.


I loved to open shows immediately after Labor Day. The press is excited to get a new season started, and they are energized. Apparently, everyone else noticed too. Now, a lot more shows are cropping up right after Labor Day, and the First Irish Festival has grown into a pretty major fest with a good amount of coverage. I still won’t count out an early September opening, but look towards later September as well (like after the 20th).


I’ve always liked the first two weeks of October. But after around the 15th, Broadway gears up, and the major Off Broadway shows are opening. I look at it as our own little Oscar season–this is when the more serious fare gets produced, and those amazing character actors are on stage. Unless your show can tie into Halloween trend stories, it’s going to be a tough time to make any impact.


November is like April, and very busy. Late October through November 2011 was simply horrible if you weren’t opening a major production. Plus you are battling the Thanksgiving holiday, when pretty much everyone speeds out of town. So unless your play is about Pilgrims, I’d just sit back and enjoy the pumpkin pie.


The remainders of November flow into early December, and now the press begins to cover the holiday-themed fare. If you have a holiday tie-in, it’s possible to get into trend stories and so forth. The week just before Christmas was actually quite nice in 2011–there wasn’t much opening so a few smaller shows were able to get some traction. I recall it being this way in 2010 as well. But it’s a tough time to get audience out . I also recommend going with something more lighthearted and comic during this month. It just seems to resonate better than the serious work.

OK, did I miss anything? What are your experiences opening during a certain time of year? Let me know in the comments!

{ 1 comment }

H E Sherman January 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Corollary to this: there is never a best night for any show to be seen.
Tuesday – cast back from day off, need to get back into the swing of things.
Wednesday matinee – too many school and senior groups.
Wednesday night – tired from the matinee.
Thursday night – audience is tired as work week coming to end.
Friday night – audience slightly buzzed/drowsy; too many end of the week drinks at dinner.
Saturday matinee – tourists; had a show last night and have one tonight; cast went out for drinks last night after show
Saturday night – third show of a four (or five show) weekend.
Sunday matinee – cast is exhausted, and likely has rehearsal for whatever benefit they’re doing tomorrow night.
This is actually all nonsense, since actors are pros and always do their best, but I’ve had this conversation many times over the years,

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