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Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly

Episode 143: Must. Keep. Growing.

Dec 10, 2019

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Tonys aren’t made of gold, but they might as well be for shows

Sabri Ben-Achour Jun 7, 2019
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Lin-Manuel Miranda of 'Hamilton' performs onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016 in New York City.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

The 73rd Tony Awards are this Sunday. Last year, ratings were up, unlike many other awards shows. The Tony’s are sought-after awards for producers and actors. Yes, there’s the prestige, but they also bring an economic benefit.

Avri Ravid, professor of finance at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, looked at a natural experiment that occurs pretty regularly on long-running Broadway shows: The show goes on, but actors get replaced.

So what happens when the replacement actor is a multiple Tony award nominee?

“The weekly revenue could go up by 20%,” he said.

Ravid didn’t find the same effect for actors who had been nominated for an Oscar and then went to Broadway.

“Tony nominations seem to reflect not just artistic merit but real economic value to shows,” he added.

Ravid’s paper appeared in the journal Management Science.

Having a Tony-winning theater star can help bring in more revenue, but if a show itself wins a Tony, particularly best musical, it’s like a fountain of youth, said David Rooney, chief theater critic at the Hollywood Reporter. “A Tony award for best musical can add anywhere from six months to a year and a half to a run,” he said.

He said some producers will still push hard for a Tony even well after their shows have closed.

“Everybody wants a Tony for prestige reasons,” he said, but in the long term, “the prestige still means something, in terms of that producer going and packaging future projects.”

Tony awards may not be plated in gold like Oscars, but they’re still worth quite a bit.