‘Beauty’ or bust

Mouse musical bookings hit-or-miss despite rule

It seems Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” may suffer from an unusual problem with audience estimates on the road.

Now in its second year on tour, questions are arising about the show’s booking formula. “Beast,” a spinoff from the hit 1991 movie and Broadway production, has had its share of successes and blunders.

According to industry insiders, the “Beast” bookings have suffered from a Disney rule-of-thumb that is religiously applied to all cities on the tour, regardless of venue or competing events — Disney is said to assume that 3¼% of a principal city’s population will turn out — and books the show accordingly.

The result has been mixed at best, with some tremendous playdates, but also several overbookings that have lost big bucks.

The largest and most painful hit occurred after a six-month stay in Chicago, which lost the production a cool $1 million. It has also lost money in Detroit, where one source said that “Beast” had been overbooked by two to three weeks, though its losses there were less clear. So, too, in New Orleans, where the show is estimated to have lost money in a November-December 1996 run.

To be sure, while such miscalculations would be catastrophic for a company like Pace Theatricals or Livent, they are drops in the bucket for Disney — but still no way to tour a show, say insiders. Currently, the show is in Cincinnati’s Aronoff Theater, where it has sold about half of its seats. It’s too early to tell, though, if Disney has overbooked that venue.