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Bumps in B’way road

Actors' Equity nixes reduced-rate tour deals

Reacting to recent reports about Broadway producers seeking concessions for touring shows, Actors’ Equity has given notice that the practice is at an end — at least temporarily.

In a release announcing the hiring of Flora Stamatiades as national director of the thesp union, Equity exec director Alan Eisenberg wrote, “Until there is further dialogue with the council and our very concerned membership, there will be no special touring contracts for first national tours.”

The announcement follows a report (Variety, Sept. 23-29) that referred to possible union concessions for upcoming road productions, including the current Broadway hit “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

Easy ‘Street’

The story cited the case of “42nd Street,” which recently struck a deal with Equity whereby salaries were reduced significantly in exchange for weekly overages whenever the show cleans up at the box office, as it did recently in Atlanta.

Eisenberg says that show is a unique case: ” ’42nd Street’ has 55 cast members, which is why we thought we could make concessions. But when a producer says, ‘My shows has a cast of 40, so we want four-fifths of the ’42nd Street deal,’ it is unthinking and greedy.”

He added, “We are categorically stating that ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ will go out on a production contract if it goes out before June 2004 — or it will not go out on a union contract.”

“Millie” is projected to hit the road next summer with a cast of 22-24. On Broadway, it employs more than 30 actors.

Road test

“From the producer end, we were not expecting to get something right away,” “Millie” producer Hal Luftig said of possible concessions. “We need to find a way to make this work, however, or the road will cease to exist. You will have megahits and non-Equity productions.”

This summer, two-thirds of road receipts were generated by only four shows: “Mamma Mia!” and the Disney hits “Aida,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”

Break-even for the average Broadway musical is now $450,000 a week; on the road that figure balloons to about $650,000.

That’s the big problem. “Road presenters are telling us they sell $600,000 a week,” said Luftig, “and they don’t have the wherewithal to buy a more expensive show.”

Most road producers negotiate with Actors’ Equity and other unions through the League of American Theaters and Producers. A spokesman for the league said the trade org would release a statement Sept. 30 regarding its ongoing negotiations with Equity.

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