“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” may take the title as the money-losing-est musical in Broadway history when it closes Jan. 4 — but don’t call it a flop. At least not when you’re out for a meal at theater district restaurant Joe Allen.
The home of a famous wall of flops, where one-sheets for short-lived duds including “Carrie” and “Moose Murders” hang enshrined, the longtime legit watering hole won’t be adding the “Spider-Man” poster to the collection. So stop asking already.
“A lot of people have been asking if we are going to put ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark’ on the flop wall, so let me say, once and for all: absolutely not,” said Joe Allen, the owner of the eponymous restaurant, in a statement he emailed out to theater folks Monday. “Any show that plays for three years on Broadway, providing steady employment to members of the theater community and pumping money into the local economy, is no failure in my book.”
He’s got a point. While the $75 million production — the costliest in Broadway history — paid back very little of its astronomical capitalization costs, there’s no denying that the tuner carved out a major pop culture profile more common to a hit than a flop, even if the notoriety came in large part thanks to the show’s famously troubled development process and the string of actor injuries prompted by its technologically elaborate set.
Since beginning performances in November 2010, “Spider-Man” spent the majority of its lifespan among the top sellers on Broadway, although running costs were so sky-high that not much coin could make it back into the recoupment pot. A strong tourist draw, the musical regularly posted weekly sales of more than $1 million until just this past autumn, when biz began to show serious signs of weakening due to a slew of new competition from the spring 2013 launch of sales juggernauts including “Kinky Boots,” “Motown” and “Matilda.”
A three-year run with a cumulative gross of more than $200 million does make it hard to call the show a flop without a pretty major caveat or two. Besides, producers are hoping “Spider-Man” will yield new revenue streams when the show proliferates in different stagings around the world, including one aiming for Vegas in 2015.
Still, in Variety parlance, a “hit” is any show that recoups its capitalization during its original Broadway run, regardless of how much profit it goes on to make; a “flop” is any production that does not. So while Allen can label the musical any way he likes, for Variety — and for the rest of the Broadway community — “Spider-Man” will go down as a spectacular, history-making flop.