At first glance, it doesn’t look like the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!” has a lot to gain from the movie version that hit cineplexes July 18.
Even before the film’s release, the production averaged 90% capacity auds and held a regular spot in the top 10 since its 2001 bow.
Still, legiters involved say the pic — which racked up $27.8 million in its opening weekend, the highest tally ever for a movie musical — will indeed benefit the New York production, if not in dramatically obvious ways. And the greatest rewards will be felt on the road and abroad.
“I waited on making the movie until I felt it would have maximum impact on the show,” says Judy Craymer, the stage producer who also steered the movie adaptation that stars Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. “It was important to me that the movie had a major worldwide distribution, with all the marketing that goes with that, to support the stage productions around the world.”
Since 2002, when the Oscar-winning pic version of “Chicago” revitalized the declining box office of the long-running revival that preceded it, producers have recognized that a film can pump new life into a stage production that has peaked.
It doesn’t matter whether a movie is a critical and popular success (like last year’s “Hairspray”) or a little-seen disappointment (“The Phantom of the Opera” in 2004, “Rent” in 2005). The major bonus for stage versions comes from the trickle-down benefits of the pic’s broad, branded national ad campaign.
Logic seems to suggests a strategy of waiting to put out a pic until the legit box office seems to need it.
The Broadway incarnation of femme-centric “Mamma,” however, doesn’t seem to have softened much. Nor, for that matter, has the 1999 original production on the West End. Not counting London, there are five productions of the show playing outside the U.S., and although the Vegas incarnation is skedded to close at the end of the year, it will do so after almost six years in a market that’s notoriously tough for Broadway fare to crack.
While not the top-dollar draw that “Wicked” or “The Lion King” is, the Broadway “Mamma Mia!” remains, like the Abba music it showcases, enduringly popular.
The week the movie opened, the box office tally got a nice bump into the millionaires’ club, selling $1,007,600 in tickets and playing to full houses. That’s a boost over the same frame in 2007, but not a major one: A year ago, “Mamma” pulled in $935,688 and played to 98% capacity auds.
Nina Lannan, the show’s general manager, says gains may not be instantly apparent, but they are being felt, adding that gross is ahead 10% of its cume at the same time last year.
Rising demand has driven up the average price to $82.69 per ticket, around $4.75 more than it was the same time last year. According to Lannan, wraps — the total coin brought in by sales for all future perfs — are currently up by an impressive $300,000 per week.
As with most long runners, “Mamma” responds to seasonal sales trends in an effort to weather fallow periods — such as the traditional back-to-school lull of September, when many productions, “Mamma Mia!” included, tend to make a higher percentage of discount tickets available to entice theatergoers.
This year, though, the film seems to have sweetened the fall outlook for “Mamma.” “We’re not necessarily going to have to push all those buttons,” Lannan says. “The movie has positioned us really well.”
And it’s the touring production that stands to benefit most. The 6½-year-old road incarnation of “Mamma” is beginning to visit markets for the second or third time, but softening sales there look to get a bump from the movie’s ad campaign.
“On the road is where we’re really going to see the impact,” Lannan says.
And opening weekend isn’t the only publicity blitz on the horizon. The DVD will be ready in time for the holidays.