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re: I think there is some chance that Variety was wrong
Posted by: AlanScott 02:27 am EST 11/22/22
In reply to: re: I think there is some chance that Variety was wrong - mikem 11:30 am EST 11/21/22

Although film has been closer to the front than theatre for a long time — maybe since the beginning — I think of theatre as being a nearly equal, or perhaps altogether equal, part of Variety's focus. And Variety has often done its own investigations into theatrical financial matters.

Re Sugar: First, I should reiterate that I'm not saying definitively that Sugar did not recoup and return a smallish profit. It's all just very odd. I just saw that the week it started previews, Variety said that it had been capitalized at $750,000 (which, as mentioned in an earlier post, had also been reported the previous August), and had opened at approximately that cost. But what of the completely new sets that replaced the original sets? While there might have been overcall included in the $750,000, would there have been enough to cover completely new sets and fees to a new designer? As also mentioned above, Gilvey wrote that Merrick told Champion he would have to personally pay for the new sets, and Gilvey wrote that Champion did, but I am skeptical. And if Champion initially paid for the sets, might he not have reasonably insisted that he be paid back before any money was delivered to the investors? (There have certainly been times when people who provided overcall money got paid back before the investors.) Or at least that he be paid back once the investors were paid off.

(Btw, what I have attributing to Gilvey mostly comes from Howard Kissel’s bio of Merrick, although Kissel doesn’t say that Champion did pay for the new sets. Kissel’s sources were interviews with various people, although neither Merrick nor Champion was among the interviewees so . . .)

And was there no overtime for the tremendous amount of rehearsal that went on during the tryout? I just checked the tryout grosses. They were excellent in three of the four cities but not good in Toronto. In fact, someone either in the Merrick office (probably) or from the theatre reported to Variety an inflated gross for the first week, which was corrected a week later. But while the D.C. business must have provided good profits because it was in the Kennedy Center Opera House and grosses were almost twice the weekly nut, in Boston at the Shubert and in Philadelphia at the Forrest, even playing to full or nearly full houses produced a rather lower gross because of their smaller capacities. I doubt that the grosses in those cities, which would have been quite good under normal circumstances, provided enough profit under these circumstances to have contributed significantly to recouping.

So I am finding it really hard to believe that it opened at $750,000, unless Champion not only covered the costs of the new sets (and the fees to Robin Wagner and his assistants, who must have been working hard) but did not expect to ever be paid back.

Even if I take the $750,000 figure as correct, the Broadway grosses just don't seem like they would have led to recoupment. Not with the $75,000 weekly nut.

Re the question of the investors raising a stink: I think that by this time, Merrick did not have many investors. And most of them had been investing with him for a long time. They had made a lot of money thanks to Merrick. They were unlikely to raise a stink. It wasn't like the cases of Irene and Chicago, where the investors threatened legal action. Did they end up taking it in the case of Irene? I can't remember. Chicago did end up recouping, but I think not till after the investors raised a ruckus.

The other possibility is that United Artists contributed the bulk of the money or possibly even all of it. That seems possible. They would have been unlikely to want to publicize a loss.

It may also be that Variety was relying on its own, possibly wrong estimates or on hearsay, and that neither Merrick nor anyone in his office ever told anyone at Variety that Sugar had recouped and returned a small profit. Variety did its own estimates regularly and perhaps still does. But since just three weeks before saying it had recouped and produced a small profit, Variety had declared it “still not classified,” it may well have been Merrick who gave them that info.

Anyway, to me the grosses just do not say recoupment. I could be wrong.
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