The Play's The Thing (as Is the Movie, the Show, the Song)

Rash Report: Tony Award ratings, Broadway Box Office, Best Since 2006

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- "All the world's a stage," wrote William Shakespeare, who could have been opining about last night's Tony Awards, which seemed to bring Broadway all the way into the media mash-up that is the defining dynamic of the new-media era. It was, after all, a night when movies-to-musicals like "Billy Elliot," which won 10 Tonys, led all productions.

'Jersey Boys' at the Tony Awards
'Jersey Boys' at the Tony Awards Credit: Landov
One of the only awards it lost was for Best Original Score, as Elton John, making a music-to-musical media transition, lost in a category that included two other movies-made-musicals, "9 to 5" and "Shrek: The Musical." (The Tony went to score for "Next to Normal.")

And it wasn't just media, but actors that jumped genres. Stage, big screen and small screen legend Angela Lansbury, who killed in "Blithe Spirit," according to critics, won for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (the Tony equivalent to best supporting actress at the Oscars). Not to be outdone, Academy Award winners Geoffrey Rush and Marcia Gay Harden (both of whom have also starred on the small screen) won for Leading Actor and Actress in a play.

All this suggests that content is indeed king. Not just commercially, as media-monetizing models try to seize advantage of the multiple ways of storytelling, but culturally and creatively as well, as old boundaries in the new-media environment are blurred, if not erased. Good roles are great opportunities for artists everywhere, which is why if viewers can sift through all the prime-time pyrite it actually is the new golden age for TV, as the upcoming Emmy Award nominations will attest to.

Of course, Broadway still doesn't play as well off-off-Broadway (also known as playing in Peoria). Once final live + same day data is released it will indicate not if, but how much another version of "showtime," as the Los Angeles Lakers' brand of basketball in known, beat the Tonys (just as the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in overtime to go up 2-0 in the NBA Finals). But fast-affiliate-rating data suggests the Tony Awards on CBS had their best showing since 2006, with an 18% increase in ad-centric adult 18-49 viewers, delivering a 1.3/4 rating and share. (Please see the chart below for all program ratings.)

The ratings rise reflects a commensurate Broadway-box-office record, as The New York Times reports that for the official 2008-2009 season The Great White Way was in the pink to the tune of $943.3 million, above the previous record of $938.5 million for 2006-2007.

Of course, that figure pales in comparison to the $9.6 billion box office for films in the U.S. in 2008, a figure that is likely to be topped this year (despite a weak opening weekend for Will Ferrell's small screen to big screen remake of "Land of the Lost").

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See how all the shows did in the ratings.
It's also smaller than the small screen's annual intake of upfront investment (a media marketplace that is having its own intermission).

But at least culturally, the show must go on. Wherever. And with whomever, as witnessed by last night's parade of movie and TV stars and by the Tony host, Neil Patrick Harris, currently starring in CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" but whose claim to first fame was as prodigy "Doogie Howser, M.D." Which is fitting not just for a night of media mash-ups, but on a night when a musical about a gifted boy, "Billy Elliot," won big.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: With reality and reruns reducing any interest in tonight's broadcast schedule, two Showtime shows -- the season premiere of "Weeds" and the series premiere of "Nurse Jackie" -- are the best bets.
Tuesday: Then it's back to broadcast for the best drama on TV. No, not a repeat of CBS's police procedurals, but do-or-die Game 6 of The Stanley Cup Finals on NBC and an almost do-or-die, at least for the Orlando Magic, who are down 2-0 to the Lakers, of the NBA Finals.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Suitors to be shed on ABC's "The Bachelorette," just as viewers are on NBC's disastrous "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!"

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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