HOLLYWOOD — Jackpots continue to roll in for the Blue Man Group, and they insist they just keep putting the money back into the machine.
This week, the cobalt-domed music-mime-multimedia troupe moves to the Venetian in Las Vegas from the Luxor, where they have been ensconced for five years. On Nov. 17, they open in London. Early next year, they’ll reshape their flagship show in New York.
In 2006, it’s not unlikely that Blue Man Group will gross more than $160 million from locations where it opened shows in 2005. Operating at 85% capacity and full ticket prices, it means a gross of more than $70 million at the Venetian, $50 million in Berlin, $30 million in London and $12 million in Toronto. (Blue Man Group’s annual potential gross at Gotham’s Astor Place Theater is just under $13 million).
“Anyone can do the math,” says Blue Man Group’s director of marketing, Laura Carmien. “There are several complicated deals. Overseas, we’re partnered with Stage Holding. In Toronto, we’re in a Clear Channel building. What doesn’t come across is how much is put into the show and how much it takes to sustain the shows.”Plus, they sustain a number of projects that won’t make any money,” she adds. “There’s no compromise of the creative.”
But to get where they are, Blue Man Group has crafted savvy deals. After playing New York for five years, the company’s founders bought out their original producers. They then self-produced a show in Boston and one in Chicago.
In 2000, Vegas came knocking. Spurred on by Penn and Teller’s belief in the city, they set up shop at the Luxor. “The Vegas show has changed our lives” says Chris Wink, one of the group’s three founders.
“You can’t anticipate that kind of success,” says Franco Dragone, former Cirque du Soleil mastermind whose design credits include “O,” “Mystere,” Celine Dion’s show and “Le Reve” at Wynn. “Their show has a great spirit, great music and craziness.”
That craziness landed them a commercial for Intel, which was followed by a music album and tour, writing the score for Fox Animation’s “Robots” and a running gag on Fox’s “Arrested Development.” In fact, this year’s comedy writing Emmy went to an episode of “Arrested” that featured the Blue Man Group.
But even with a Blue Man army of 60 performers now employed, don’t call them an empire.
“We prefer the term conglomeration,” jokes Matt Goldman, who founded Blue Man Group with Wink and Phil Stanton in 1987.
Wink breaks it down: “At any given moment, we are most excited about new material. Opening new shows allows us to do new material, and as we see what works at one (venue), we see how it might work at another. We’re not businessmen.”
In Vegas, 25 minutes of the 105-minute show will be brand new when it officially opens Oct. 10 at the Venetian. The London show, in a 700-seat theater, however, will be more like Toronto, which is based on the current incarnations in Chicago and Boston. With the new shows up and running, the big Blue cheeses will start tinkering with New York in February, that show’s first adjustment since March 2004.
“We’ve gone 15 years (in New York), and we don’t want people to stop coming,” Wink says, his eye on “The Fantasticks’ ” record of 30 continuous years. “The material has to either be timeless or topical. We’d never remove the marshmallow or the drumming, but when virtual reality was happening we had a bit on that. Now it’s out. Same with the Internet. This is a moving target.”
The Venetian seduced BMG the way high-roller resorts do these days: the promise of a new theater that the performer designs.
“We are a landlord,” says Venetian prexy and chief operating officer Robert Goldstein, who will be building and opening two more theaters at the resort in 2006. “There’s a creative difference between Blue Man Group and every other show in Vegas. Plus they have a track record in cities around the U.S.”
And then there’s that potential gross from a theater that “cost tens and tens of millions,” Goldstein says. “There are (huge) numbers that apply to any show — that’s what makes Vegas astounding. Every deal is different, but because of those numbers being so big, there are a lot of opportunities for everyone.”