What will happen to Broadway if Spider-Man is a hit?

When the work started back up at the Hilton Theater recently, it felt like that moment in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when, after years of silence, smoke started coming out of the chimneys.  “The Oompa-Loompas are back to work!  They’re making chocolate again!”

Well, unfortunately for the Producers of Spider-Man, they don’t have Oompa-Loompas to do their pre-production.  Their labor costs a lot more than a free room and all the chocolate you can eat.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding what’s going on in that theater.  Everyone’s waiting to see what will happen on opening night.

Me?  I’m more interested in what happens after opening night.

Spider-Man is the biggest show that Broadway has ever seen.  I’ve compared it to the movie version of Titanic and Avatar before, as it has the potential to create that kind of tsunami-like splash.

But what happens in the aftermath?

First, let me state how much I’m fantasizing about Spidey-success.  That same post I linked to above talks about the potential it has to bring new audiences to the theater, to bring more rock-star composers to the theater, and to re-energize our market by giving us one of the most unique events we’ve ever seen.

It could be a game-changer.

It could also drive up capitalizations and costs quicker than Clark Kent can change into Superman.

We’re an industry that swings for the fences.

And regardless of how out-of-whack some of our labor rules may be, or or royalty pools, or GM fees, and so on . . . when you get a hit, none of it is out of whack.

And that’s why the fees are so high.  The unions, vendors, and so on, keep the rates at high levels to make sure that they have what one Producer I know calls “Bonanza Insurance.”

I call it Phantom Insurance.

And those rates and fees will always stay high, as long as there is one show that defies the odds and mints money like the Oompa-Loompas mint . . . uh . . . mints.

So, if Spider-Man sets a new bar . . . will the unions and creatives and Producers have to set a new one as well?

Me? I’d rather have a whole slew of hits than just one super-sized hit.  So when you hear, “If Spider-Man can do it, ” even if it comes out of your own mouth, make sure whatever you’re discussing makes sense (and ‘cents’) for your show.

Because Broadway musical budgets 50 years ago were less than a million bucks.

Now the average is getting closer to 15 million.  That’s an increase of 1500%. And inflation has increased.

What will the average be in 2060?

  • Daniel Tenney says:

    Frankly, I see this as a problem, because with higher costs come higher ticket prices. I truly feel that theatre is for everyone, but I greatly fear the day that we wake up and theatre is like yachting or polo–something enjoyed only by a small subset of the very rich.

  • Doug Hicton says:

    The other thing likely to happen is that Broadway will be held prisoner by a series of vapid, overproduced, overpriced megamusicals that will make the excesses of the late 1980s seem downright sane.

  • Judith says:

    Daniel, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • CV says:

    I agree with Daniel. Especially since statistically lately, Broadway’s attendance is going down and prices are going up. As prices are going up, audience members are getting more picky on purchasing tickets that are the sure thing (which is why they often pick The Lion King, Phantom, Wicket, Mamma Mia, etc.) – they know its already a hit and will enjoy. And with new technology in movies and television, Broadway in turn may have to become more ambitious with its shows to draw a crowd.
    My hope is that Broadway tries to become more simplified and focus more on the talent of the performers and the enjoyment of a good story – not necessarily a spectacular with special effects. People truly enjoy when they find themselves or relate to a show.

  • Paige says:

    I totally agree with CV — simpler is the way to go. Yes people love movies with high spectacle and what not but theatre is not a movie. People love a good story and interesting characters where they can see themselves or relate to the events occuring or even broaden their mind and take away something new — I think that’s what makes theatre so special and if Broadway loses that, well, then what do we do???
    Also – I am totally all for rock stars coming to Broadway -woo hoo! – however: if Broadway becomes to filled with pre-made megastars then what about all those young composers sitting in their dorms right now trying to write the next Rent or Next to Normal????

  • judith says:

    Well, good thing could be the nay sayers go “gulp”. Also, were people jealous of Julie? I do feel that Equity could have protected performers more. It is good to have the opportunity she had to just totaly let her imagination pop wild. I am a bit confused about lack of safety in a union show. I would love it if people get their fill of big and also crave intimacy of smaller, more easily produceable shows. I remember seeing great shows on Broadway for $10. I am glad students and seniors have some ability to still see shows for less. I, however, would go to theatre every night if I could afford to.
    Also make certain we still have the smaller Broadway Theatres.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *