B’way looks to ease cuts

Business much stronger than anticipated, sez 'Rent' producer

NEW YORK — Is it pay-back time on Broadway?

Several producers and general managers met with their Broadway companies Tuesday to quell rumors, explain their shows’ rapid rebounding at the box office and, just possibly, promise a refund on those 25% pay cuts imposed on union employees to keep shows running.

One producer, Cameron Mackintosh, is ready to return half of last week’s labor concessions.

“On our emergency nut, we believe we went into a surplus,” said Alan Wasser, general manager on Mackintosh’s two long-running shows, “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” which grossed $305,838 and $406,686, respectively. “Instead of a 25% pay cut last week, it will be 12.5%. Sales this week are looking good. If they hold, we’ll be doing the same 12.5% pay cut again.”

General managers for “Kiss Me, Kate” and “Chicago” also met Tuesday with their companies to voice optimistic caution about improved business. No returns on those 25% pay cuts just yet, they said, but meetings on the subject were promised. In the case of “Kate,” 101 Prods. told the company and cast its purchasing of tickets (equal to another 25% of salaries) was no longer necessary to keep the show afloat.

Broadway business rebounded mightily last week, as overall B.O. came in just 10% below September 2000 levels. Several shows had receipts that topped or came close to bettering their respective grosses for the week of Sept. 3-9. One of those productions is “The Full Monty.”

“Actors are seeing full theaters and not understanding,” said “Monty” producer Thomas Hall, who met with his company prior to Tuesday’s performance. “We sold a lot of discounted tickets last week, so we took this opportunity to explain our financial situation.”

“Business is much stronger than we anticipated,” said “Rent” producer Kevin McCollum. “If it remains at these levels, we will return whatever is possible.”

McCollum, however, expressed caution. “This is week two of a four-week thing. In 24 hours, we might need immediate help. If we don’t need it, we feel that we should get the money back to the people who agreed (to the concessions).”

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