Only Cameron can recoup a show the day after it opens.
The London revival of Miss Saigon opened this past Wednesday night.
24 hours later, Producer Cameron Mackintosh announced that it had already recouped.
I mean, wowza.
I’ve been a part of shows that have given a distribution on opening night . . . maybe 10% or a bit more (usually a result of strong preview sales, coming in under budget and a positive outlook for the next several weeks – which allows you to return the reserve) . . . but recouping a show the day after opening.
Sweet Mary and Joseph, that’s some news.
Now, I have to assume that Sir Mac means that he has recouped the show on paper and that he’s probably projecting the profit he’s going to make over the next several weeks because of the massive presale the show had. But still.
The big takeaway for me when I read the news was this quote from Cameron himself:
The show’s budget was 4.5 million – which is not a huge amount. I didn’t need to spend more than that and I think it looks every penny.
4.5 million pounds is only 7.5 million US dollars.
Now, if you know the history of Miss Saigon, then you know it was one of the biggest spectacles Broadway had seen when it premiered on Broadway in ’91. There was a full-on helicopter on the stage for G-d’s sake (and as someone who saw it, let me tell you, it was fantastic.) I have it on good authority that the original production cost just north of $10mm.
Over twenty years later, and Cameron produced a revival of the same musical for $7.5 (granted it was in London, but still!).
He easily could have doubled down on that budget and produced a massive production that dwarfed the original.
But he wisely knew he didn’t need to. He kept the costs down because he knew he “didn’t need to spend more than that.”
And that’s why he recouped it on opening night.
Broadway does love spectacle, there’s no question about it. But smart Producers know when enough is enough. Your story is your greatest spectacle. You have to have a physical production that tells the size and scope of the story. But at the end of the day, to quote another Mackintosh musical, if the audience doesn’t take to the story, it doesn’t matter how many helicopters you have.
Now, as I mentioned before . . . how long before the Broadway company is announced?
And how much you want to bet it’s going to play The Broadway Theater, the same theater it played originally?
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