The spreading paradox of Broadway

It costs many millions of dollars to open a Broadway show. If it doesn’t run for months or years, investors get creamed.

Yet one or two bad reviews can crush a show, impacting attendance so seriously that it never recovers.

The obvious answer is to make a show review proof. You do this by intentionally scheduling a short run and stocking the play with big stars.

Big stars, though, likely require you to modify the show so that it’s not so good–at least not so good by Broadway standards. (Julia Roberts is a star, her show was not well respected). Result: You sell a lot of tickets (in fact, The Odd Couple sold out before it opened). You are review-proof. And you train the audiences who attend that Broadway shows aren’t so great.

The new Superman movie will cost more than a fifth of a billion dollars to make. Perhaps the same strategy will cross their mind?

As the stakes get higher, it’s easy to play it safer. And when you play it safe, more often than not, the very plight you were seeking to avoid becomes more likely.