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Zagat adds theater to its menu

June 15, 2003|Don Shirley

Zagat ratings may soon become as well known in the New York theater world as they are in restaurant circles.

The Zagat Survey empire has published its first New York City Theater Guide and expects to publish a larger and updated edition by Labor Day. A weekly column with the most recent Zagat theater ratings is also running in the Friday Weekend section of the Wall Street Journal.

The guide rates 56 shows, on Broadway and off. The most important rating is the overall percentage of those who have seen a show who would recommend it to friends. In the first edition, the winner was "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," with a 96. The worst-rated show was "Perfect Crime," with a 36.

Additionally, each show is rated for acting, story and production on Zagat's usual 1-30 scale. A paragraph of description, dotted with pithy quotes from survey takers, follows.

Publisher Tim Zagat, who ran an off-off-Broadway theater from 1968 to 1974, said that his new guide "organizes and accelerates the word-of-mouth" about shows. The rating of each show represents the opinions of at least 200 theatergoers and often as many as 1,000, he said. They vote via the Internet or on ballots distributed outside theaters.

The alphabetized ratings make up less than half the book. The rest consists of lists of shows by category, seating charts, and Zagat ratings of restaurants and clubs near the theaters.

Zagat acknowledged the guide's limited shelf life, but he plans to revise it three times a year. In the meantime, he said, the newspaper column keeps the ratings fresh.

-- Don Shirley

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