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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Comments
  • senorvoce says:

    And no whining about union rules and other excuses. Yes, London costs less than Broadway, but his formula is working with his “reimagined” Broadway Le Miz.

    Plus, he’s smart enough to own the Prince Edward Theater. It helps to be close to the landlord.

  • senorvoce says:

    Umm… That’s Les Miz.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    He’s just taking a page from his LES MIZ handbook. Lots of folks think this is just being cheap, since you’re not delivering the same spectacle as originally advertised.

    Less cast. musicians, etc.

  • I think if you’ve got a great show, the visuals
    don’t need to be overwhelming, only very good.
    “Overwhelming” kind of signals over-compensation, don’t you think?
    I mean, it’s fun, but not if it breaks the bank
    and the show has to fold.

  • Broadway Fan New York says:

    I was fortunate enough to see the show the other night and it absolutely looks every penny and more. It’s quite extraordinary and exceeded even my very strong memories of the original production on Broadway. By the way, the opening night party featured a 20 minute fireworks display that rivaled Macy’s Fourth Of July–really. So in addition to knowing how to mount a sensibly capitalized outstanding production, he was magnanimous enough to I’ve his guests and indeed the good people of London a beautiful visual feast in the sky. (Can’t wait to see the refurbishment of the two theaters he just acquired too). Here’s to a NYC transfer.

  • Marina Barry says:

    I agree with you 100% Ken — I too saw the Miss S original and was wowed then and know it was not because of the helicopter! Story is the main thing – if you scale over that then you really don’t have much to say. And we know that’s done but with this show the producer is smart enough to know less is more and go with a sure hit that’s already been there and done that!

  • A Stage Manager says:

    All well and good for making money in the west-end which is tricky (ie I Can’t Sing) BUT when you expect more than last time and you’re excited to see how technology has been used 15yrs on and you get far LESS that leads to huge disappointment! Shouldn’t it be about finding a balance with exciting audiences AND keeping all those actors and tech teams in jobs by making his money back? I was sad it wasn’t a patch on the original.

  • Janis says:

    Thankfully someone is recognizing the value of story. Spectacle is a flash of sparkle, but it soon becomes tiring. Story is everything!

    I loved Miss S. Made me cry and rejoice too.

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