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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Quick Thought: New plays versus New films

In the world of films, the new film is a commercially viable prospect (See it on opening weekend! The hottest young stars and directors!) and the older films are pretty much immediately viewed as classics, Netflix fodder, stuff for Criterion, or trucked out by film societies. You'll undoubtedly find more non-profit foundations dedicated to the preservation of old French black and white films by obscure directors than non-profits dedicated to new filmmakers. New filmmakers are out there hustling to connect to studios and producers and market their work. They are the lifeblood of an industry that wants to always make new stars, new movies, churns out what's next all the time.

But in theater, old workhorses are largely seen as the only truly commercially viable prospect, and new plays are largely (not entirely, but largely) a non-profit proposition. New Play Development is somehow viewed as a grant-worthy public works project, and a re-imagined Our Town is more likely to be $65 a ticket.

In short:

New Movie = Run Out And See It Before Your Friends Do
New Play = A Solemn Public Good, Please Donate
Old Movie = Something That Needs To Be Preserved And Discussed In Graduate Programs
Old Play = Perhaps A Broadway Revival?

To say nothing of old TV shows, which disappear from the public mind with haste.

Certainly, one can find examples of why this is true. (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson was put forth as hot and young and got swallowed, largely, but a commercial run. Chicago will never disappear.) Still, hard not to wonder how theater evolved to embrace the non-profit model so completely, that it's best prospects for exciting young audiences are largely supported by taxes and charitable giving.


bayviewguy said...

The day I have the marketing budget and delivery models of a Hollywood release, even the smallest ones, is the day this model will see change. Perhaps different in various markets, but new plays demand not only marketing but enough marketing to go beyond awareness to education. Theater is visceral and powerful stuff, and the comfort level it requires of its audience is far more of a human investment than sitting in a movie theater. Add this all together and the model of supporting new play development is seen as investment. Movies are produced though investment as well, and it isn't until they gain in popularity that they actually begin to show ROI. I'm reasonably sure 200 million people won't see the next play I have on the stage, so the economic model is completely different. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to have a Hollywood promotions budget, and then too we would ensure even the newest and most avant garde of plays is seen by the masses.

Swollen Foot said...

This is a sad fact, but true! :( The exception is when a new play is produced which has big name celebrities starring in it. I guess that's kind-of a crossover of the two!