Broadway merchandising is growing up.
Twenty years ago it wasn't uncommon for theaters to stock a skimpy inventory of souvenir T-shirts, posters and programs.
But swag has evolved ever since tuners such as "The Phantom of the Opera" learned the marketing value of iconic logos. Now some newer kids on the block -- including "The Color Purple" and "Wicked," which reports 2006 merchandise receipts of a whopping $6.25 million at the show's Broadway outpost alone -- have raised the stakes even higher, turning merchandise into a booming ancillary biz.
"Merchandising has gotten more sophisticated," says David Schrader, managing director and chief financial officer of Disney Theatrical Prods., which trades on its own shows (including "Mary Poppins" and "The Lion King") in the U.S. and the U.K. "Sellers are paying more attention and getting a little smarter, and the consumer seems to be more accepting of it."
Disney has always done well on the merchandise front, which is no surprise to those who associate Broadway trinkets with kids' stuff such as "The Lion King's" Simba beanbag, one of that production's top-selling items.
But even Disney didn't expect a higher-end product for grown-ups, a sturdy parrot-head umbrella that retails for $40, to turn into the strong seller it has become for "Mary Poppins."