EU Proposes Ban on Incandescent Lamps in Theatres

The Stage reported yesterday that “The European Union is considering banning tungsten halogen lamps in entertainment lighting, due to environmental concerns over their energy inefficiency.”  There are so many reasons this is hopelessly misguided.  Let me list a few.

First, the energy consumption of an entertainment venue is so low because the usage is so low, even for a Broadway or West End production with 500 lights.  These theatres run eight shows a week, and average two hours per performance. That’s 16 hours per week, which is only one day of a retail or office space.  So a theatre’s monthly hours of operation is equal to only four days of many other building types.

Second, the energy consumption is much lower than the connected load implies.  500 lights at 575W equals 287,500W.  However, there’s never a time at which every light is on, much less on at full.  A dark, dramatic scene may use only 5% of the total lighting equipment, and that won’t be a full brightness.  One rule of thumb is that the usage of theatrical lighting is about 50%, so the 287,500W of connected load comes to only 2,300 kWH per week.  That’s for huge shows. An off-off-Broadway theatre or community theatre with only 75 lights and five performances per week uses only 108 kWH per week.

Third, the impact on the entertainment industry, especially smaller and poorer companies, would be devastating.  Yes, there are retrofit kits for ETC Source4 lights.  However, all other brands of lekos, Fresnels, PARS, striplights, cyc lights, followspots, etc. don’t have retrofits.  Tens of thousands of perfectly good equipment would have to be scrapped, but with replacement lights costing thousands of dollars (or pounds) many companies would not be able to replace the lost lights resulting in theatres literally going dark.

Fourth, these theatres would need new power and data distribution.  Nearly all LED lights for the entertainment industry have on-board dimming and need to be connected to constant power, not dimmed power.  But, nearly all lighting circuits in theatres are connected to dimmers.  And, these LED lights need connections to the stage lighting control system, but this is an exponential growth in the number of data lines and the number of data parameters that need to be controlled.  So, not only would theatres need new lighting equipment, but they’d need new control systems as well.  Great for theatre consultants like Studio T+L, but ruinously expensive for theatre, opera, and music venues.

Fifth (I’m not done yet!) the quality of light and lighting will suffer.  The most obvious impact is flicker of lights when they are dimming which, despite the assurances of most manufacturers, is a real, pervasive problem.

Why am I so heated about this topic?  Because if it goes through in the UK some bright light of a state or federal legislature will think we should follow their lead.  Again, it would be ruinously expensive for many, many performing arts companies.  The entire lighting industry is converting to LEDs.  In architectural lighting there are very few reasons to decide against using LEDs, so most new installations are mostly LED.  The same is true in the entertainment industry.  However, there is an enormous base of existing equipment for which there are no retrofit options.  Rendering that equipment useless by removing replacement lamps from the market is outrageously heavy handed (and ham handed).  Let the industry organically continue its transition to LEDs, don’t force it.  The damage far outweighs the benefits.

The Levoy Turns 5!

In 2008 we began a four year collaboration with the wonderful people at The Levoy Theatre in Millville, NJ and R2Architects.  In September, The Levoy will have been open for five years and they’ve sent us some statistics on their success.

528 (and counting) public events, concerts, comedy, magic, theatre, movies and more!
200,000+ visitors
187 performances by the Off Broad Street Players
30,000+ hours of volunteer time donated by over 250 volunteers (between Levoy and OBSP!)
10,000+ students attended free or reduced cost school-day live theatre
Congratulations Levoy Theatre!  Here’s to the next five years (and the five after that)!

Lenore Doxsee Lights John Jasperse

Our own Lenore Doxsee will be lighting “Remains” a new work by John Jasperse at BAM’s Next Wave Festival this fall.  The dance piece will run from September 21 – 24 at the Harvey Theatre.  BAM describes the piece as “sampling fragments and phrases from the radical practices of his forbears while repurposing them within the contemporary present.”

Watch this interview with Mr. Jasperse.

What Will Your Last Broadway Show Be?

By Jason Livingston

When my nephew was eight years old he came to visit me in New York for the first time and I bought us tickets to see “Lion King.” I paid about $100 per ticket for orchestra seats just off of the aisle. It was a lot of money to spend on an eight year old, but I love the theatre and hoped to engender the same love in my nephew. During the spectacular opening number he was so excited! He was on his feet looking around, and at the end of the opening he turned to me with huge eyes and a smile that stretched from ear to hear and said, “I like theatre, Uncle Jason!”

A few years later his little sister, then also eight, came to visit and I bought us tickets to “Wicked.” This time tickets about $125 and we were in the mezzanine house right. They weren’t ideal seats but they were the best reasonably priced seats I could get. My niece was silent throughout the show, and silent for about 20 minutes afterward. Then, suddenly, she was done processing what she had just seen and spent the next hour or more excitedly telling me everything she loved about the show. She couldn’t stop talking about it and even now, five years later, she still listens to the soundtrack, and it is one of the most memorable experiences of her young life.

During subsequent visits I’ve taken the kids to see “Annie,” “Blue Man,” “Matilda,” “Pippin,” and last year won Uncle of the Year by taking my nephew to see “Hamilton.” How do you engage a 16 year old? Find the one show that combines popular music with one of his interests, American history. I loved it, too. It is easily the best Broadway show I’ve seen in a decade, probably longer. The music and lyrics are smart, funny, and sophisticated with a breathtaking blend of traditional Broadway and hip-hop that works beautifully. And I wonder if it’s the last Broadway show I’ll be able to take the kids to see.

Why? Partly because I paid about $130 for seats in the second to the last row of the balcony. We were so far away that it was very difficult to make out facial expressions. More importantly, though, Broadway ticket prices are about to soar.

On Tuesday the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, published an op-ed piece in the New York Times. In it he complains that the average Broadway lover can’t get tickets because ticket brokers are using computer software, called ticket bots, to buy up tickets as soon as they are released and then reselling them at huge markups. Ticket bots are currently estimated to be buying up to 25% of the show’s tickets. He calls for the state legislature to pass a bill that will curtail the use of these bots so that average people can buy tickets.

In retrospect, one has to wonder if this wasn’t just a campaign to soften up the reader for Wednesday’s announcement that “Hamilton” was raising top ticket prices to an unheard of $849 for center orchestra seats, and that all other ticket prices were going up by 12% to 29%, from $139 -$177 to $179 – $199. How long will it be before other shows follow? Orchestra seats are already over $400 on quite a few shows, and if “Hamilton” can get away with extortion level pricing, can “Book of Mormon,” “Wicked,” and others be far behind?


“Greed Is Good” Gordon Gekko

“No it’s not” Most of Humanity


The thing about the announcement that really angered me is a quote from Jeffery Seller, the lead producer, who said, “What has certainly been frustrating to me, as a business owner, is to see that my product is being resold at many times its face value and my team isn’t sharing in those profits.” I’ve checked the Constitution, the Bible, and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and nowhere does it say that he’s entitled to all of the money. Perhaps I should have checked the Complete Works of Donald J. Trump.

In one year the show has already recouped its $12.5 million dollar investment, and is making an estimated $600,000 per week in profits. It’s on track to join “Wicked” with $1 billion (with a B) in sales. Last month the show cancelled $10 million in bulk ticket purchases because it suspected that ticket bots were involved, and in the next round of tickets to be release there will be a maximum of six tickets per purchase. The show is doing great, artistically and financially, and is taking big steps to limit ticket bot purchases. So what’s really going on here? I have to believe that it’s simple greed. And, while that greed may be great for this show’s investors, I worry about its impact on the theatre at large and the people who love it. Think about it – two tickets at $845, plus taxes and fees, will cost about $1,750. That’s more than my mortgage!

The show’s producers point out that there’s a ticket lottery – 46 tickets at $10 for each performance. However, that’s only 3.5% of the seats. 10,000 people per day enter the lottery for those $10 seats. Assuming that the seats are awarded in pairs, you have a .23% chance of winning seats. With those odds you can’t make plans to see “Hamilton,” you can only hope.

My youngest niece is two. I worry that in six years I won’t be able to take her to see her first Broadway show because two tickets will cost $500 or more. I won’t be able to pass on my love of great theatre, or at least not my love of great Broadway theatre. Is Broadway going to become like most opera, the domain of the rich, or will it remain accessible to all of the people who love it?