The Playgoer: Do the Math

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do the Math

Jeremy Gerard offers a pre-postmortem on the financial bust of putting up a less-than-successful play like Impressionism on Broadway.

In 1982, [Emanuel] Azenberg produced the first play in Simon’s semi- autobiographical trilogy, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” for $500,000. The revival he’ll present next season, he said, will run $3 million.“Over the last 25 years, all the costs have spiraled with no constraints,” Azenberg told me. The physical production, he said, “cost $100,000 then; it will cost $500,000 now.”

“The director’s fee was $25,000 then,” he continued. “It will be $100,000 now. An ad in the Times was $20,000 then; it’s $110,000 now. With payments to the pension fund and health plans, the cost of union labor today is $100 an hour.”

That’s the reality facing “Impressionism” producer Haber.The show has a limited run of 16 weeks. The week of the opening, when “Impressionism” earned $289,057, ticket sales covered rent, advertising and payroll. The following week, sales bumped up to $325,000, attesting to the positive word of mouth I was talking about. Still, in order to recoup its $3 million cost, it will need to nearly double its box office income, which seems highly unlikely.

Then again, with Jack O'Brien helming and actors Joan Allen and Jeremy freakin' Irons, there's a good chunk of your $3 million right there, just in salaries!

(Because this is Bloomberg, the headline, naturally is: "Broadway’s $500,000 Sets, Unions Scare Investors." Unions: scarier than a half a million bucks worth of scenery dropped on your head.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This man is a fool.

He complains about the cost of producing a Broadway show, compared to 1982. Well, how much did it cost to SEE a Broadway show in 1982? Which cost has risen highest, fastest?

As a union actor, even one with Equity insurance, I've never felt that I earned $100 bucks an hour. I doubt either Joan Allen or the British Jeremy Irons participate in either the insurance or pension plans.

If he wants to spend no more than $500,000 on a production, I'm sure he can find several independent, off-Broadway, and regional artists willing to invest his money.