If only there was a secret recipe to solve all the ways in which to run your theatre. How do I sell out every show? How do I cast both the best person for the role and someone who is loyal to the theatre? How do I increase cash flow? If only we could wave our magic wand and answer these questions. When that time comes, someone is going to make many community theatres around the country very happy.
In the meantime, I have to go with my old motto, 'Every theatre is is different.' And that can be said, too, about determining what show to produce. There are so many factors! Your stage, your talent pool, your artistic intentions, and, of course, your royalty cost. What is the 'relationship' between royalty cost and the production scheduling or planning itself?
I asked pretty much this very thing of Long Beach Playhouse's Executive Director, Madison Mooney, who has been with the organization for over a decade, and who has participated in many discussions regarding the length of show runs, the slots in which season productions are booked, and the cost involved every step of the way. Check out her insight and thoughts on the delicate relationship between royalty costs and season selection.
Madison Mooney, Long Beach Playhouse (LBP): "The Long Beach Playhouse has had its schedule of 8 productions on our Mainstage and 5 productions in our Studio Theatre, since 2013.
Most of our plays have 13 performances over 5 weekends, our musicals have 16 performances over 6 weekends with the possibility of adding 2 more performances as an extension weekend. Our holiday show A Christmas Carol varies, depending on when Christmas falls during the week, sometimes it’s 8 performances sometimes it’s 11.
That run of 5 weekends, seems to be the right length for LBP. When determining that we looked at our audience size, costs of building the set, costumes, props, and designer stipends, etc. along with royalty cost per production.
We look at royalty costs more as a total number and cost for the season as opposed to each specific production, we apply and pick a variety of shows with different royalty costs. Including royalty-free scripts like Shakespeare, and other classics. The variety of types of shows we produce at LBP also assists in bringing in more people from our community throughout the year.
Musicals have sold quite well for us, which is why we put them at the end of our seasons to allow for a possible extension weekend. But with musical royalties costing so much more than a straight play, along with extra production costs of a musical, we limit ourselves to only 2 a year to alleviate burnout from both staff and audiences.
...Royalty costs doesn't hinder us that much, but that's because we can take that risk once and a while, since we are so long established, and unless the show has high high royalties and is a complete and utter bomb, the show still brings in money. But I do know it matters greatly for other theatres, especially new theatres.
Season Selection, we've got a great answer with (former Executive and Producing Director) Andrew (Vonderschmitt)'s 'meal' analogy that has been proven success for us.... "