You make the call: which show would you produce?

http://www.theproducersperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/my_weblog/6a00e54ef2e21b8833013488fa966c970c.jpgThere has been a lot of talk about the economic challenges facing Spider-Man lately.  So much so, that another show based on a mythical figure has sneaked down our metaphoric chimney without much fiscal fanfare.

That show, which opened on Sunday, is Elf.

Based on the super-popular movie starring Broadway Star Will Ferrell (yes, we’ve hijacked his status since Will made his Bway debut a year and a half ago), Elf is delivering us the gift of performances for 9 weeks only.

How do the Producers manage those economics, you ask?

Well, as Variety reported from behind its pay-walled tower, they don’t.

First up, because they’re movie people, they don’t talk money because they don’t have to. On “Elf,” there aren’t another two dozen producers they need to answer to. But a reliable estimate is that “Elf” has been mounted as a pretty average Broadway musical with $500,000-to-$600,000 in weekly running costs for its 15 musicians and 22-member cast, and capitalization that is only slightly under the typical $10 million-$12 million mark.  In other words, “Elf” would be extremely fortunate to recoup in nine months of sold-out perfs, much less nine weeks.

Well, just because they are movie people, doesn’t mean they’re not smart.  Variety continues . . .

Obviously, the makers of “Elf” have their eye on the future. The big plan: “to extend the brand of the film,” says Michael Lynne, principal of Unique Features (and former New Line founder, with Bob Shaye).

Makes sense to me.

In fact, that’s got my Spidey-sense tingling.

Because Spider-Man, at $60 mil plus, is quite obviously banking on a brand-building success beyond Broadway, maybe in a slightly different way than Elf, but still.

So, here are two brand new Broadway shows with two break-the-mold financial models.

You know what that means?

Yep, it’s time to play the game that they used to play during NFL football games . . . You Make The Call!

The question is . . . which one would you rather produce?

Go ahead, pick one.

And don’t be a little girl about it and say, “Neither.”  In my office, when anyone tries to wimp out like that, we play a game called, “Ok, there’s a gun to your head and you have to make a decision.”

So, imagine you have the funds to produce both . . . which would you back?

Comment your answer below with a why.  Email subscribers, click here to visit the blog and make your own call.

And remember . . . you gotta pick one.  Just one.  It’s our own version of Fantasy Broadway!!!

(If you want to see a Shakespearean version of You Make The Call, click here.)

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Comments
  • DG says:

    ELF seems to be the most reliable: 9-week run marketed towards families and children, with no real stars, and the possibility of boffo merchandise sales. No, it may not make its money back in the short run, but looking at the long-term, now every regional theater can use “Direct from Broadway” in future productions, it can tour, and, besides the Radio City Christmas Show, there’s no other holiday-themed, kid-friendly show out there.

  • Kevin says:

    I’d choose “Elf,” out of personal preference more than anything. I like the property and think it’s a good source for a musical. I can also see it having a substantial afterlife as a holiday standard in regional and local productions (regardless of the mixed reception its received). I see it as a long term investment.
    I’m a big fan of “Spider-Man,” but I’d rather see him on screen. My instinct tells me that making him sing isn’t a very good idea; I personally don’t see a need for him to sing. If I had gotten in on the ground floor of this one, I’d have pulled a Saint-Subber on “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” and gotten the hell out of dodge before rehearsals!

  • Brad says:

    I definitely think “Elf” is the better option. As said above by Kevin, it has the features of a holiday standard, similar “White Christmas” or any of those of shows.
    “Spiderman” seems to be trying to tap into the comic book audience that the film industry so recently succeeded at. I don’t really see the same people that go to comic-con going to see musicals on Broadway. Personally, as a comic book fan, I can’t see Spiderman singing to Green Goblin, just my opinion. If they can make it successful though, more power to them!

  • Dez says:

    Elf – for sure!

  • J says:

    Elf has my vote too… but maybe because there is so much negativity towards Spider Man (from Riedel, chatrooms, etc). Hey, I listen to my peers. I may not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t listen to what they have to say.

  • Tom says:

    Ken, It might have been of interest if you asked us if we are under or over 25 since I think that would prove insightful.
    Elf would be my choice. Even with the reviews it received it is still family Holiday, feel good entertainment. Furthermore there can be life well after the nine week run.
    Spiderman has a few worries for me. Having Bono from U2 write the music may be great for those younger theater goers but the tradionals may take a wait and see. As seen with some other new musicals like American Idiot and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, they consistently have low attendance/sales. The younger audiences prefer the impulse buy and a show cannot live without a decent pre show advance.
    Is the creative team suppose to give us the balance needed to satisfy both audiences? Maybe but I’m not willing to risk it.
    And for the record …. I’m over 25.

  • Andrew says:

    I’d bet on ELF. It’s a holiday show with broad appeal & could probably do well with yearly tours for people sick of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. And small children will drag their parents to the theatre. Consider me sold.

  • Bruce says:

    Spidey- bigger risk, bigger reward. Longer potential shelf life in foreign territories, Vegas, arena tours, etc.

  • Jordan says:

    To me Spiderman is the clear choice because its ceiling is worlds higher than Elf’s ever could be. Spiderman has an inherited audience – how many tourists and foreigners will pile into NYC at any given time, walk into Times Square without a clue of what to see, and go, “Ooh! Elf!” The built-in audience of the two just doesn’t compare. Yes with Spiderman you inherit the costs of technology and effects and running budget. But in creating a large-scale show you also, in theory, create a spectacle, an event to behold that can brand itself as being bigger than just a Broadway show. So yes you have the Broadway run happening and to me this is a show that will have success selling tickets (its been buzzing, insect pun, for over two years now) and, being a massive spectacle with an instantly recognizable name, can succeed in markets all over the world. How easily can you see the web-slinger in Vegas, Paris, throughout Asia, London, and frankly all over the place? Holiday shows are a dime-a-dozen, and yes Cirque De Soleil is the name when it comes to big events, but Spiderman would make an instant impact as a big-time show that could amaze any audience member. And all this is speculating about the show itself – just imagine if its actually a good Broadway show! With good reviews!
    If given a choice, I’m picking Spiderman because the potential for success is worlds greater than Elf could ever be. Gimme all the bumps and bruises and learning curves at the start, tell me my running costs are going to be astronomical, and I’m still taking Spiderman because the short-term investment will reap long-term gains.

  • Rich Mc says:

    Frequently the contrarian, I’m going with Spidey. Reason? While I completely agree with other posters that Elf has the potential to become a Christmas Classic, I see this as a relative detriment. The movie is highly seasonal, thus you need to wait many years for a healthy ROI, based on this branding thing. Spidey, on the other hands lends itself to multiple new movie sequels (think Harry Potter) in a shorter time frame, and the Broadway branding brushes them all. So, that’s where I put my money, though must contractually nail down royalties from all future film versions.

  • charlottecohn@gmail.com says:

    I would go with the better show. no matter the cost. I haven’t seen neither so I can’t cast a vote yet… but my feeling is Spiderman is higher on the quality scale.

  • Dan K says:

    I am with the ELF camp, mostly because SPIDER-MAN sounds like a disaster on so many levels.

  • BB says:

    My Spidey senses are tingling.
    I love the idea of a Webber without the Andrew LLoyd.
    Better year round legs for sit down and for touring.
    Could be spun into an arena event format with awesome flying and effects.
    Okay, I’m out of web puns. But what about…
    Options for merchandise would be more diverse.
    It would probably appeal to a larger cross cultural demographic.
    Better suited to futures in Vegas, West End, Dubai etc…
    As for investors, aren’t the film companies publicly traded?
    Apart from all that, if Michael Cohl, the man that has produced the Rolling Stones tours for all these years, says it’s a good idea who am I to argue?
    Can’t wait for your results.

  • I am absolutely fascinated by your implication that the only people who like or listen to either Bono or Green Day are under 25. The members of Green Day are all pushing 40 and Bono is 50. Many of the fans of both of these guys are their own age or near to it, so your logic makes very little sense to me. Would you really rather see West Side Story yet again, or a Disney cartoon turned into a play, rather than give something that dares to offer rock music to a new audience a chance? Shame on you for your close-mindedness. If you would give it a chance you might just enjoy yourself, in spite of yourself.

  • Jason says:

    Spidey! ’nuff said!

  • I would choose Elf. I love the concept of Spiderman, I adore Reeve Carney, and Bono and The Edge will undoubtedly go down as two of the best songwriters of their generation. That being said, from a business standpoint it has become a money pit that is likely to never recover it’s costs. Elf, on the other hand, seems like a much better investment. It takes a lot less time to recoup a much smaller investment on something successful, as Elf is likely to be, and movie people know this because it is put in practice all the time.

  • Vance says:

    Elf. I think both will eventually make their money back but I think it will take Elf less time and easier to branch out faster to many places (like White Christmas).

  • janiska says:

    If forced to choose between the two, I would choose Elf though I hated the movie and am thoroughly disgusted with shows that try to recreate movies or rely on stars, brands, or gimmicks to get an audience.
    Just as movies are never more than cheap imitations of Broadway musicals, Broadway musicals are never more than over-priced imitations of Hollywood movies. And spectacle will never distract an audience from a poor show.
    Selling a known product with proven profitability is almost easier than selling the riskier unknown, but over the long term, taking the risk of producing a meaningful show comes with greater rewards. Producers who focus more on marketing than on quality may be pleasing their investors for the short term, but they are cheating their audiences and ultimately their investors.
    It is time for Broadway to return to the risky art that made it what it is. It is time for more new shows with meaning, messages, and deep emotion that can only be expressed in comedy, drama, music and dance.

  • David Moon says:

    I’m going to say that if it’s not really broke, don’t fix it. Spider-man has been a successful running franchise for Marvel, and I don’t know if it needs Broadway as an avenue (no pun …) to build upon the brand. I actually see more of a risk than a possible pending reward – financially or otherwise. ELF is at the beginning of a possible franchise. A flop isn’t going to have negative impact on future DVD (or whatever is next)sales and cable royalties for the future. ELF actually looks like it’s working … so just like White Christmas, you’ll most probably will see a production somewhere during a future Christmastime in a theatre near you. So my non-producer prospective would be for ELF.

  • David Moon says:

    I’m just now started to read the other responses here. Yes, I agree that if Spider-man is good (Lets say Wicked-good), it might work internationally also. But, if the show fails on Broadway … will it be moved into other far-away venues, or Vegas? $60 million is a lot of failure to carry forward. Thinking in film terms, if you spend $60 million for a movie that grosses $5 million … do you spend more money to produce a sequel?

  • JLP says:

    I think Elf is a safer bet. The licensing potential is huge–every high school, middle school and community theater is going to want to do this show eventually, after a tour and the regional theaters get their turn..and that in itself should be financially successful. There is a huge demand for kid friendly good Christmas shows that are branded and this should fit the bill nicely. Spidey seems too risky–still very expensive to mount in arenas and unclear how it will sell on Broadway and elsewhere.

  • Gordon says:

    Elf – hands down.
    This will be back every year (or two) for years, maybe even decades. Build it once, store everything through the off-season, and bring it back, over and over and over.
    Then there is the opportunity to tour or sit-down in multiple cities each holiday season.
    Ice shows, cruise ships and theme-park shows can all be spun off of a good Broadway production.
    Maybe even a TV special.
    Just think about all those animated specials that come around every year… and don’t forget films like “Yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Clause”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, and “It’s a wonderful life”
    Fact is, Holiday nostalgia is powerful juju. Build something that can get hooked in to the collective psyche and you’ve got a license to print money.
    It may take a while, but at the more modest capitalization, it’ll eventually recoup.
    I’d hesitate to say the same about Spidey…

  • Ed from Connecticut says:

    Can’t believe I am saying this but I’m going with “Spider-man.”
    Elf- though I haven’t seen the show, I did see the movie and while it was okay I wasn’t very impressed it would have a huge bankable future (even Will Ferrell declined to be in the sequel)- especially just to resurrect the thing for a limited run around the holidays every year. And the reviews weren’t encouraging enough to convince me it is even worth resurrecting.
    I’d rather go for the bigger risk/reward. It’s a new take on an already proven worldwide popular multimedia brand (comics, TV, movies).
    Yes, Spidey is already $60M in the hole but, if it works, it won’t cost them nearly that much to replicate it for version 2.0 in Las Vegas, London, Tokyo, etc. and the spectacle of the new catapult system (I’m making a leap of faith that the bugs- pardon the puns- will be out of it and it won’t kill anyone) and the other new effects will draw tourists in because it will be “You gotta see this” buzzworthy.
    Oddly enough, I see Spidey as the safer bet in the long run… Unless it sucks.

  • Mozz says:

    What the hell, gun to my head? I’ll go with Spider. Bigger risk but also bigger pay off. And he did say, If I had the money. You know the massive cries of disaster that were following James Cameron’s Titanic, before it picked up it’s 11 academy awards. That’s the logic i’m gonna go with here. Go big, or go home. Fortune favors the bold, and so I’m gonna go with Spidey, and with Julie Taymor, come on, she’s a bit of a perfectionist.
    Still, I would put my money on something original.

  • Tom says:

    The question was which one I would rather produce. Although Green Day and Bono are older than 25, it is the younger crowd they appeal to most. I will not lose sight of the fact that I want to recoup my investment and I think having rock music lessens the appeal of an all ready dwindling audience. Close minded? Not really, but I’m not into taking chances with my money.

  • Demetrius thornton says:

    Spiderman is already a brand, and the amount of publicty that has been getting with simply triying to get the show up I think will get more butts in the seats and keep the lights on for some time. The producers of elf have already determined it’s life span which dosent give you much assurance that the show is any good. Movie people have been known to produce crap in hopes of buildin a brand, and one remember the movie Electra? My choice is spiderman.

  • revu11@hotmail.com says:

    I’ve been playing a version of this game for years. I think the first show I said I’d-love-to-invest-in-if-I-had-the-moolah was “Prettybelle.” And thank goodness I didn’t have the moolah – I’ve had far more misses than hits. My instinct is to say “Elf” – it will be a perennial bestseller both on Broadway and in cities like Toronto (where I live). But given my track record, my advice is to go with “Spiderman.”

  • Charles says:

    I’d go with “ELF” it’s seasonal and has the potential to become an annual holiday treat. I could also see this production becoming franchised playing multiple cities simultaneously along with th sale of all of the merchandise.
    If “Spiderman” doesn’t do well on Broadway it has the potential to be a world-wide
    spectacle playing large arenas, but may not have the longevity.

  • Randy says:

    No brainer here… “Elf.” Despite my feelings that “Spiderman” will be revolutionary and may actually recoup its investment one day in the far-away future, “Elf” actually has a much longer shelflife. Although there will definitely be tours and long multi-city sitdowns for the webslinger, what amateur theatre group will EVER be able to stage “Spiderman” with all of its special effects? And, regardless of whether “Elf” is well-written or even “worthwhile” theatre, it is a known entity and can probably be done by any community theatre or high school that can afford 50 pair of tights & a painted backdrop. “Elf” will recoup its money many times over.

  • Irishmary says:

    This is really difficult because Elf is seasonal. While some regional theaters make 40% of their annual budgets from “A Christmast Carol” they are not doing that in July. The run is probably monumental from Thanksgiving through New Year’s but then. ‘Hey kids I got a great labor day treat–Elf’ isn’t exactly a promise of a consistent year round return.
    I would choose Spiderman because it has multi season appeal and U2. Overall I think putting these insane amounts of money into any one production creates for a very risky venture. So I would very reluctantly pick Spiderman.

  • David Moon says:

    But it’s been a tangled Web (more puns) for Spider-man. It’s been a publicity roller-coaster to manage. If it’s a sensation, the questionable PR will be forgotten … if it’s bad to mediocre, or even mildly good … it’s squashed — like a bug. Conjuring up a Cinderella story for investors on Spidey will also take a lot of time. HOWEVER, if it’s truly a brand equity investment, then the model isn’t suited for investors, unless you are buying into the entire franchise. You could say the same with ELF.

  • Elisa Clayton says:

    I would choose Spiderman over Elf for three reasons:
    1. Julie Taymor – Writing and Directing
    2. Bono and The Edge – Composing the music
    3. Michael Cohl – Legendary rock & roll producing track record
    This is the kind of team you bet your money on when the venture is risky. Plus when they take the show on the road their business model is better.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    My answer is Elf-explanatory. Elf because Spiderman can never possibly tour where Elf can put up a production in 50 cities for a holidayrun every year. And if the show is popular, it may eventually draw more star power to the lead performances. Elf is for kids, and every year, you are guaranteed last year’s four year old who was too young to sit through a show is now five and will see it. Plus in terms of the Broadway show, I’m sure the annual cost would come down once the sets used this year ammortize and can be re-used.

  • Malini says:

    The upcoming production of Spidey has really pissed me off as a theater patron, a producer and a New Yorker.
    It seems to me that it’s all about making the most money in an arena that doesn’t need to be more commercialized. I don’t think it’s right that parents are going to have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to see a show.
    I have seen Spiderman, the movie, read the comic book and have even been on the ride at Universal Studios (which rocks).
    Elf will do better in the long run. I would put my fantasy money behind ELF!

  • Jeff says:

    Like choosing a ticket on the Titantic or Lusitania. So I’d go with ELF. Like the Lusitania it will have a longer shelf life (more voyages, LOL) than the Titanic Spiderman. ELF can be done in subsidiary markets- even high schools at holiday time. Spiderman, will never be remounted for a myriad of reasons and at $70 million plus in expenses (it has long past the $65mil expense mark – so why are folks still using $60 mil) it will/can never recoup. You might have gotten lucky on a Lusitania voyage – you certainly faced doom on the Titantic. Now, about The Hindenburg musical of the season…

  • Anna says:

    Well, here’s a comment from the French side of the Atlantic (so what do I know?): I would go with Spiderman.I’d favor the production idea to the marketing idea. I believe it holds more in the long run, merchandise or not, and even if it fails, wouah, I’d done it!

  • Dlofdahl10 says:

    Spiderman. Bigger gamble but bigger payoff. Taymor/Bono&Edge/Spiderman huge pluses. This could, and i think will, become a destination event. Could run for years like LK and is potentially a much better musical. Kids keep LK running but Spiderman could well tap into a far more lucrative demographic – boys, teenagers (with Mom and Dad in tow) and that most elusive of b’way demographics 18-34 men.

  • Martin says:

    I would produce “Spider-Man -Turn Off The Dark”
    why?
    because the brand is known throughout the world and it wouldn`t take too much effort
    to establish such a spectacular for example in Germany – if it is ever successful on Broadway
    (Germans love Extravaganzas – Starlight Express since 1988 in a special for this peace constructed house _ Lion King
    since 2001 in a special for this peace developed theatre tent).

  • Jed Harris says:

    SPIDER-MAN.
    The hope here is that it can be another WICKED, LION KING, etc. And they may just pull it off. And if they do (remember WICKED didn’t get raves or win the Best Musical Tony), that’s what important.
    ELF is also too soft…

  • To me, it comes down to this choice: which has a better chance of generating a big return or which seems to be more artistically interesting? Number one is Elf, number two, Spider-Man. And how would I choose? This is no doubt why I will be eating chili out of cans my whole life, but I always go with artistic interest and so put down the bankroll on Spidey. Life’s too short not to work with Julie Taymor and U2. Then I’ll hope that my friends who invested in “Elf” will invite me to dinner once in a while.

  • It seems to me that it’s all about making the most money in an arena that doesn’t need to be more commercialized. I don’t think it’s right that parents are going to have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to see a show.

  • douglas gray says:

    I don’t think it’s much of a scoop,
    Poor Spidey is flying through poop,
    To speak for myself,
    I’d stick with the Elf,
    Spiderman cannot recoup.

  • BMcDonald says:

    I’m all for big vision. I am going with Spider Man! Why? Because of the two its the one that is attempting to do the impossible and for me it’s all about the journey.

  • Chip says:

    Without a doubt, I would choose ELF… Create a strong brand on Broadway and expand over time. Perhaps bring it back the following year not just in NYC, but one or two other cities. Then recoup the rest through future licensing in the regional market. This actually doesn’t seem to be revolutionary – somewhat similar to the model that WHITE CHRISTMAS used, right?

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