Broadway has had good years and bad, and big hits and misses — especially over the last decade. But what about twenty years from now? How will the centuries-old traditions of theater on the Great White Way be different in 2032?
At Monday’s inaugural TEDxBroadway conference at New World Stages, Broadway professionals, including producers, marketers, entrepreneurs, economists and artists, will meet to discuss the future of New York’s famed Theatre District. About a dozen speakers will gather to present their views on what Broadway is doing — and what it must do — to ensure long-term success.
The first speaker, is Ken Davenport, a writer, director, producer, and co-organizer of the conference. He points out Broadway has come a long way in the last twenty years. “Before you think about where you’re going, you have to know about where you’ve been. I remember riding my bike through 42nd Street and seeing a crack addict lying on the ground. When you think of where it was 20 years ago, then you have to think that major things could happen over the next 20 years.”
One major point of discussion will be the current trend of broadcasting HD quality one-night-only performances of Broadway shows to movie theaters live across the country. Potentially this practice could be expanded — even eventually into private homes via Video On Demand. After all, neither movies nor television totally replaced live theater as an entertainment medium, but how much should Broadway embrace new media?
Another big topic will be Broadway’s tendency — especially in the last decade — to adapt movies into Broadway shows. Some of these have been major successes — Mel Brooks’ The Producers for instance — and others have not fared as well — Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Another co-organizer, Jim McCarthy, who is the CEO of ticket discounter Goldstar, personally believes that Broadway will have to move away from tired material. He explains, “This is an idea factory in the middle of the most vital city in the whole world. If the content is right, the influence of it will extend past the physical space, rather than Broadway being a national park where people go to theaters because it’s there, like visiting Ford’s Theatre when you’re in D.C.”
While anyone visiting New York City in 1992 would’ve never imagined that by 2012 Broadway theaters would be a billion-dollar a year business, it’s impossible to predict the successes — or failures — of Broadway in 2032. Still, it’s very beneficial for the health of the entire industry to speculate on where to go next.