Legit’s rocky road

B'way boffo, but tours not so terrific

Touring productions of Broadway shows had a national economic impact of $3.25 billion during the 2004-05 season, according to a study by the League of American Theaters and Producers.

It’s the first League report on touring Rialto offerings, but current season-end figures indicate that road grosses have declined 30% in the past two years.

That stands in stark contract to Broadway, which is coming off a boffo season. And the most recent of the League’s biennial study of the impact of Broadway on the Gotham economy found that during the 2004-05 season, the Rialto contributed $4.8 billion to New York, a 4% rise (inflation-adjusted) over the 2002-03 season.

Still, the road is not without optimism. It has touring productions of the season’s smashes (“Jersey Boys,” “The Color Purple”) on the way, old-timer “Chicago” is still drawing auds, and touring incarnations of big Gotham hits “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Spamalot” are consistently robust performers.

Many of the newcomers are fresh Tony-winning shows rather than revivals, but road presenters gripe about rising costs.

The 2004-05 season, which is the focus of the road report, included “Evita,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “The King and I,” which all yielded disappointing B.O., and it was also the year that biz for touring productions of “Hairspray” and “The Producers” began to slow.

That season, according to the new League study, production and presentation expenses of tours came to $832.5 million, with theatergoers’ ancillary spending — restaurant visits, gas, etc. — hitting $611.7 million (and averaging $73 per person).

It cost an average of $3.5 million to produce a tour, with weekly expenses running $285,000. Costs are normally shared, in varying proportions, between producers and presenters.

About $378 million impacted New York City, with money getting to the city through Gotham-based vendors and the high number of touring thesps who are based in New York. In addition, a tour benefits Broadway by raising the national profile of the Rialto production that spawned it.

Study also calculated the ripple effect of tour expenditures, from both producers and theatergoers, as the money trickled through the affected communities. That figure came to more than $1.8 billion.

Impact of tours on large cities (more than 1 million people) averaged $31.5 million, with numbers decreasing as a city’s population decreases.

Figures were extrapolated from a survey of 16 regional presenters, including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and the Capital Theater in Salt Lake City. Among the 14 tours whose audience members were surveyed were “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Hairspray,” and “Mamma Mia!”

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