The Playgoer: Spidey Gets the Last Laugh?

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Spidey Gets the Last Laugh?

And they said it wouldn't last...

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark celebrates, bittersweet anniversary of that disastrous first preview, exactly one year ago today.  And after all the upheavals, openings and re-openings, firings and hirings, here they are still running, and raking in an impressive $2 million gross for Thanksgiving week.

This hardly makes it profitable yet. The question for Spidey has always been can they run the many years necessary to recoup that $70 million investment?  Not anytime soon, but the producers are hitting the circuit this week, talking the show up and doubling down.

Weekly running costs alone for “Spider-Man” total $1 million or more, by far the highest amount on Broadway, while its net income has ranged recently from $100,000 to $300,000 a week. At that rate the show would need to play on Broadway at least five more years — and possibly quite a bit longer — to pay off debts, a run very few shows achieve. In other words, it would need to turn into a hit on par with “Wicked” or “The Lion King” (the latter directed by Ms. Taymor), which after lengthy runs still regularly sit atop the weekly Broadway box office charts.


[The producers'] bullish outlook derives from the show’s robust weekly box office sales since early summer, and what the producers say is $12 million in advance ticket sales driven by tour and school groups, and visitors from outside the New York region. (Those visitors from farther afield account for about half its audience.) Mr. Cohl said the musical has had advance ticket sales of about $1.6 million a week on average this month, a sizable amount. Those advance sales numbers could not be independently confirmed; they would be less than those for hit shows like “Wicked,” “Lion King,” and “The Book of Mormon,” but still enough to demonstrate staying power.

Mr. Cohl said he was also emboldened by surveys of those attending “Spider-Man” that indicate half its audience were people attending their first Broadway show.
True, I guess an audience that wants a themepark experience doesn't care about whatever dramaturgical flaws Spider-Man may display. But is it even satisfying themepark material?

Still, hats off to the sheer determination to keep the show running this long. But, then again, anything's possible when you've got money to burn and lots and lots of patience.

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