Research Highlights

New Study Shows that a Major Tony Award Lengthens a Show’s Run by Almost 50%

By Jeffrey Simonoff, Toyota Motor Corporation Term Professor of Statistics
NYU Stern Professor of Statistics Jeffrey Simonoff, Lan Ma Nygren of Rider University and Stern PhD student Nikolay Kulmatitskiy find that winning a major Tony Award increases the length of a production’s expected run by about 50 percent. Additionally, each major Tony nomination alone is associated with a roughly 30 percent longer expected show run.

“Shows that have been nominated for major Tony awards but are still vulnerable to closing, including The Lyons, End of the Rainbow, Other Desert Cities and Peter and the Starcatcher, stand to potentially benefit from the awards show on June 10,” explained Professor Simonoff. “Shows like Nice Work If You Can Get It or Once, which have each been nominated for five major Tonys, could potentially increase their expected run nearly 50 percent if they win all five awards.”

According to the study, a positive or a negative review in The New York Times does not ensure a show’s success. “We find that critic reviews in the New York Daily News are related to a show’s longevity, but contrary to popular belief, reviews in the Times are unrelated to a show’s success,” Simonoff noted.

Additional research findings for shows that opened between June and February include:

1. Musicals have an almost 50 percent longer expected run than non-musicals (i.e., comedies or dramas)
2. Revivals, despite their tried and true beginnings, tend to be less successful than other shows with a roughly 20 percent shorter expected run than non-revivals
3. Higher attendance in the first week after a show opens is a good indicator of the show’s longer-term success

“In the Broadway theater business, where attracting the largest possible theater-going audience is critical, theater owners, producers and investors need to understand what goes into a smash hit,” said Simonoff. “This research takes an important step in furthering our understanding of what contributes to both hits and flops in today’s business of Broadway.”

While the revenues from a successful Broadway play or musical can be high – upwards of $150,000 per performance for large-scale musicals – so are the risks. Many shows close after only a few performances, resulting in huge losses for investors – to the tune of as much as $10 million or more for a musical.

Simonoff’s co-authored research on “Broadway Show Survival,” examines show data from 2000-2009.