Research: Tony Award Increases Life of Show

Rider’s Dr. Lan Ma Nygren co-authors research with colleague from NYU Stern.
Monday, June 11, 2012

Once, the romantic musical that depicts a tale of musicians who fall in love in Dublin, captured eight Tony Awards on June 10, including best musical and best actor. Peter and the Starcatcher followed in second with five Tonys at the 66th annual awards show.

According to research co-authored by Rider University’s Dr. Lan Ma Nygren these recent honors could increase the longevity of the two shows on Broadway. Nygren, associate professor of Management Sciences, and her colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Simonoff, professor of Statistics at NYU Stern School of Business, and Nikolay Kulmatitskiy, a Stern Ph.D. student, 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.

According to the study, a positive or a negative review in The New York Times does not ensure a show’s success. “The most interesting finding was a review in New York Daily News actually increases the show’s longevity,” Nygren said.

Additional research findings for shows that opened between June and February include: musicals have an almost 50 percent longer expected run than non-musicals (i.e., comedies or dramas); 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; and higher attendance in the first week after a show opens is a good indicator of the show’s longer-term success.

Nygren, who received a Ph.D. in Statistics from NYU Stern, and Simonoff had conducted a related study in 2003. Nygren, who initiated the larger-scale research in 2000, said she received a generous summer fellowship and reimbursement grants from Rider in order to support the project. She credited Sharon Yang, associate professor-librarian, for being instrumental in the data collection of newspaper reviews for the research.

“This time, we wanted to conduct research on a larger scale by taking a deeper and broader look into 10 years of show data, from 2000 to 2009,” she said. “This study furthers our understanding to what contributes to the success or failure of the business of Broadway.”

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