The Tony’s Effect


The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are arguably the most magical, high-quality television viewing experience every year. For those already in the know, they get to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing incredible productions shared with all the world and cheer for their favorites, celebrating victories or arguing unjust losses. For those who don’t partake in the arts very often, it’s an eye-opening view into an entirely new, wonderful entertainment experience, often sparking a lifetime interest. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl for Broadway lovers.

Beyond the night itself are the memories that viewers take with them. Months and years later, people remember a high-energy or heart-wrenching performance they saw unwind on the Tony’s stage. Many of us still remember a song we saw performed when we were quite young, amazed at the caliber of talent being displayed. It’s not just one night of entertainment; it sticks with you.

So, just for fun, we’re taking a look to see if the Broadway Box Office shows any signs of a connection to that magical night each year. Similar to the Oscars, one would expect the winners to see a rise in popularity, but what about the losers?

This year’s ceremony was on June 7th. In the weeks prior, attendance could be seen building for several high-buzz contenders. As a matter of fact, thirteen of 31 shows grossed $1 million or more, including An American in Paris, Something Rotten!, The King and I, and The Audience. Even smaller venue contenders saw a bump, like Fun Home and Hand to God (which saw an 89% filling of the seats for the week). As buzz rises, so does attendance, so it seems.

That’s not to say that all shows saw great numbers. Gigi, The Visit, Wolf Hall Parts 1 & 2, and even On the Town all had quite low percentages of potential. With the exception of Best Costume Design for Wolf Hall, perhaps we can look to the box office takes when making our own Tony predictions.

But, what about after the awards were handed out? Let’s just say that June saw tons and tons of sold out shows, particularly for The Audience, which ended its run on an ever-present high note. The numbers grew steadily (but not for all Broadway shows; many nominees and all winners saw increases) and seemed to feed off of the pre-Tony’s buzz. Around July 4th, most shows took a dive in ticket sales, but otherwise the winners saw steady numbers.

It’s important to remember that while many of the regular theatregoers were filling seats after the awards, many look to the Tony’s to plan more long-term trips to NYC. Hence, many shows will continue to see financial success months after at-home viewers got their first glimpse. Many people will plan an entire trip based on when their show is running (to catch it before it closes) and when their budgets and schedule will allow a trip. Especially with summer vacations (and, yes, even holiday trips) being planned, it’s clear that the “Tony’s effect” will ebb and flow, but definitely show itself in individual box office showings in the coming months.