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Investing in Broadway

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Published on Nov 5, 2015

Tickets are selling and the theaters are full. It's a good time on Broadway. But does that mean the Great White Way is a wise investment? Not necessarily.

Producer Ken Davenport says Broadway is a billion-dollar business that's booming. Davenport has produced the hits "Kinky Boots" and "Godspell." Right now Davenport is producing "Spring Awakening" and says he's never been more proud. The production comes from the Deaf West Theatre and includes a cast of both hearing and non-hearing actors in a story told through dance, song, and American Sign Language.

While the theater is thriving here in New York, investing in Broadway is a risky business. Davenport says, on average, only one in every 5 shows recoups its investment. He considers himself a serial startup guy, who has to get new investors, a marketing team, and management every time he does a show.

So who puts up the money to get Broadway productions off the ground and how much does it cost? Davenport says his investors come from all over the world. The majority of them invest because they love the theater and want to support the art. On average, they invest about $25,000. Some producers will take as little as $10,000. Others demand a minimum of six figures.

When Davenport revived "Godspell" in 2011, he took a unique approach and crowdfunded. He brought in more than 700 investors and let people get involved for as little as $1,000.

Successful investments on Broadway aren't always the most logical ones. Just look at "Hamilton." This summer's smash hit, a hip-hop inspired musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, grossed nearly $1.6 million last week, and nearly $24 million since it opened in July.

Davenport says when art is done really well, it can turn something like "Hamilton" -- an idea you thought would never work -- into a big success.

--ALISON MORRIS

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