Hot summer for L.A. legit

Neil Simon and Andrew Lloyd Webber, among others, have been doing big-bucks business in Los Angeles this summer, as the touring legit biz has begun to heat up just in time for some more jumbo tuners to come lumbering in.

Recession doesn’t seem to be stopping Los Angeles audiences, who have been buying movie and theater tickets in droves. The legit grosses for the week ending June 27 topped out at $ 2,595,948, more than double the usual take.

Among the big hits so far have been Neil Simon’s offbeat romantic comedy “Jake’s Women,” and the revival of the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice tuner “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” both of which set new attendance records.

The shows now waiting in the wings include “The Will Rogers Follies,” starring Keith Carradine, coming in for an 11-week stay at the Pantages, and the jazz musical “Five Guys Named Moe,” which is Doolittle-bound.

Subscriptions sluggish

One area where it continues to be tough, though, is in subscription sales. A slow economy has pushed many legit sales directors to resort to more creative ways of selling season packages. In some cases, that creativity is paying off.

“Jake’s Women,” starring Alan Alda, recently closed a record-breaking 12-week run at the Doolittle theater with $ 3,063,182 in the coffers. “Jake” bumped another Simon play from the top spot: “Lost in Yonkers” racked up $ 2,945,805 in 13 weeks last year.

The strength of the “Jake’s Women” run has, in turn, given a big boost to the start of the subscription campaign for the Ahmanson-at-the-Doolittle, which began sending out fliers last week.

“We feel pretty secure with the season that we’re coming out of and the season we’re going into,” said Robert Schlosser, who directs the subscription campaigns for both the Doolittle and the Mark Taper Forum. “And that’s really the bottom line. If someone walks away from a poor season, or doesn’t see anything they’d like to see in the next season, then you don’t have the sale.”

But strong seasons may not be enough. Would-be Doolittle subscribers are also being teased with a chance to win a trip to London, and they’re getting an early look at next season, as the brochure lists three upcoming shows. They include Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Sisters Rosensweig,” the Broadway revival of Herb Gardner’s “Conversations With My Father,” starring Judd Hirsch (who won a Tony for this performance) and the tuner “Falsettos.”

The Taper subscription season is getting a boost from the currently running Anna Deavere Smith one-woman show “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992,” which Schlosser said could be a sleeper hit.

Advance sales on the show are strong, he said, which he chalks up to a bigger number of non-traditional theatergoers.

“All of our marketing efforts went into the non-traditional theater market. We didn’t even approach the regular theatergoers,” Schlosser said.

The Taper heavily marketed the show to Latino, Asian and black audiences, and it’s paying off.

“Right now the show is selling out,” Schlosser said. “And the audience really reflects the voices that Anna is speaking onstage.”

In its first three weeks, the show has brought in $ 258,901.

Meanwhile the subscription drive for the Taper, now at its halfway point, has slightly topped last year’s numbers, Schlosser said.

“We’ve renewed 16,000 so far,” he said. Last year’s number topped out at 24, 000, which he fully expects to hit again.

Most of that business comes from renewals. Selling to new subscribers has always been difficult, and the task is made harder by tough economic times.

“But we’ve been maintaining the same amount of sales with the previous two years,” Schlosser said. “And our renewal was only down 1% last year.”

‘Amazing’ grosses

Yet there’s no doubt that people are going to the theater this summer; just look at the B.O. for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” In 19 weeks , the show brought in $ 11,242,301 at the Pantages, breaking the theater’s weekly record in its final week with $ 912,731.

The constant reminders that the four-year-plus run of “Phantom of the Opera” is about to end (final perf is Aug. 29) have pushed the remaining weeks of that show into big B.O. country. The week ending June 27 saw $ 795,822 in the till.

As of June 27, the “Phantom” record run hit $ 148,079,591.

The one big tuner that has had a slow start is “Crazy for You,” which collected $ 1,227,656 in its first three weeks at the Shubert.

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