re: Sondheim's Broadway career
Posted by: AlanScott 05:20 pm EDT 04/10/21
In reply to: re: Sondheim's Broadway career - ablankpage 10:57 pm EDT 04/09/21

What happened with Sweeney is not that unusual. It has to do with the fact that profits are often (perhaps usually) not distributed immediately to the investors. They are held for a bit, often at least in part as insurance against possible money-losing periods in the future. If a show goes through a money-losing period after it has partly returned its investment (and, for that matter, also after returning its investment), the undistributed funds may end being used to make up the losses during slow periods in the hope that the box office will go back up again.

I have no way of being sure exactly how much money Sweeney lost between the time the replacement leads took over and the closing, but based on what Variety reported in as the weekly nut (along with variables such as rent and royalties) and the grosses, I think it had to have lost at least $100K and perhaps as much as $300K from the time the replacement leads took over till the closing. The show was not helped by an 11-day transit strike in April 1980, but it was already not doing very well.

The loss of (again, just my guess) $100-300K may not sound like that much by todays standards, but it had been capitalized at $1.2 million, although it ended up costing $1.525 million to open. If it did lose something like $300K during that time, that’s 20 percent. Also not helping the investors is that the people who put up the additional money above the capitalization get paid first.

I will amend what I wrote earlier to say that they probably should have run it two months with the new leads. Reviews did not appear till two weeks after they took over. They were mostly quite favorable, and it’s only fair to allow time for the effect of the reviews and word-of-mouth to kick in. And then there was the transit strike, and you wouldn’t want to close during that. When the closing was announced in June, it did well for the last two weeks. It’s easy to say this now, of course, but closing at the end of April rather than the end of June would have held down the losses.

As for Into the Woods, I have no particular insights. It simply didn’t do well enough to recoup during the Broadway run, despite having relatively low running costs and a relatively low capitalization compared to Phantom. I’m not feeling like doing two or three hours of research to make sure that I’m remembering things correctly and to check on figures, as I did last night with Sweeney.

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