2018: The Year Off-Broadway Shines Again

James Fouhey and Zac Moon in PUFFS. Photo by Hunter Canning.

With the start of 2018, I find myself incredibly excited about the state of commercial Off-Broadway.

For much of the last half-decade or so, the refrain has been that Off-Broadway was no longer a viable option for commercial theater.

And yet, at the start of 2018, there are many signs that Off-Broadway not only is thriving artistically, but that it’s also proving once again to be profitable for the producers and investors who back commercial productions.

Below are some of the signs that 2018 will be bigger than ever for Off-Broadway.

Off-Broadway Venues

With shows running longer and longer on Broadway and Broadway theaters off the market for years, 2018 is the year for producers to give serious thought to opening shows in some of the amazing Off-Broadway venues that populate NYC.

As of the first week of January, there are a number of prime Off-Broadway theaters that either are available to rent now or will likely be back on the market by the spring.

Off-Broadway Audiences are Growing

With hit shows like Puffs and Sweeney Todd, audiences are showing that they are once again excited about purchasing tickets for productions that originate Off-Broadway.

New productions can leverage this enthusiasm for Off-Broadway when marketing their own shows. As consumers increasingly realize they can see quality theater for a fraction of the price of a Broadway ticket, they will seek out more and more work Off-Broadway, where they can maximize their entertainment spending.

Off-Broadway Shows are Profitable

The margins on Off-Broadway shows have the potential to be remarkably lucrative for producers and investors.

Gordon Cox, in his recent Variety piece, Commercial Off Broadway Isn’t Dead — It’s Turning Into Broadway, highlighted some of the shows, like PUFFS, that are proving to be financial successes.

While there’s no such thing as a sure thing, the numbers are looking good for the right material and producers who are willing to work hard.

Start Small and Build Your Brand

Premiering a show on Broadway carries with it not only enormous risk but also the potential to lose a lot of money very quickly.

While Off-Broadway is not immune to financial issues, there’s more room for a show to run in an Off-Broadway venue while still finding its footing. A show that has low running costs Off-Broadway can afford to play for a long time even if it’s just breaking even, giving the production more time to find and grow its audience.

For all of these reasons, 2018 is the year to once again embrace Off-Broadway if you are serious about producing quality theater in New York City.

Daniel Kuney is the President of KGM Theatrical, a Broadway and Theatrical General Management firm in New York City.