Don’t worry just yet about “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” the Broadway transplant of the recent London revival starring Kevin Spacey.
Amid gossip that the limited-run show is relying too heavily on premium-price seats to make recoupment feasible, producers made the unusual decision to forgo direct mail discount offers — a staple of Broadway marketing — despite facing competition from a spring slate unusually crowded with serious non-musicals (“The Year of Magical Thinking,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Coram Boy,” etc.).
So far, wraps are encouraging. “Moon” began previews March 29 with an advance nearing $3.5 million, according to Elliot Martin, a producer of the show along with Ben Sprecher, Max Cooper, Nica Burns, Max Weitzenhoffer, London’s Old Vic Company and others.
The decision to forgo direct mail (while offering limited discounts through email blasts) came in part due to Spacey’s insistence that 60 $25 student rush seats be made available for every performance.
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“If you can get kids in early enough, you just might be part of planting a seed for the next generation of theatergoers,” Spacey says. “And the truth is, producers have the money to afford it.”
The actor, who is also a.d. of the Old Vic, offers a similar student discount program at the theater in London and will participate in master classes and other education programs at area schools while he’s in New York.
Still, from a producing standpoint, the student discounts for “Moon” — plus the fact that the 1,050-seat Brooks Atkinson Theater lost around 30 seats to accommodate the production’s set — make it a bit harder to inch back into the black. “It pinches a little, since we have only 10 weeks,” says Martin.
But with a $3.5 million advance, the show’s fiscal prognosis is good, Sprecher says. It’ll take about $5.2 million in sales to make back the capitalization of the show, from a total ticket inventory of about $7.5 million.
“It’s Eugene O’Neill. We’re not talking about tits and feathers here,” he says. “But there is an audience that wants to see substantive theater with major stars.”
The more, the merrier
Say you’ve got a big, ambitious play you’d like to produce, but there’s no way your rising nonprofit theater company can muster the resources to put it up. Nor, for that matter, can another New York legit org with a far longer history and a far larger operating budget.
One solution: Go co-pro.
Co-productions staged by alliances between Gotham non-profits are becoming increasingly common in the days of rising producing costs. (Think “Avenue Q,” the Vineyard-New Group collaboration that bumped up to a Tony-winning Broadway run.)
Adam Rapp‘s “Essential Self-Defense,” currently on the boards at Playwrights Horizons, is one such team-up, in this case between the six-year-old Edge Theater (which helped make its name with productions of Rapp plays including “Stone Cold Dead Serious” in 2003) and 38-year-old Playwrights Horizons.
“Self-Defense,” centering on a guy who works as a self-defense class dummy, has 11 characters and a rock band.
“It was just too big for Edge,” says Edge a.d. and “Self-Defense” helmer Carolyn Cantor.
It was even too much for Playwrights Horizons to tackle alone in its Sharp Theater, which is reserved for edgier work such as Rapp’s. “We knew it would cost at least $60,000 more than a typical Sharp production,” says Playwrights a.d. Tim Sanford.
Sanford, who earlier in his tenure at Playwrights oversaw co-productions with the Women’s Project, already knew and trusted Edge’s creatives, including producer and set designer David Korins and resident playwright Rapp. And there are benefits for both ends of the equation.
Playwrights Horizons gets an influx of younger theatergoers from Edge — theatergoers who could, if they like what they see, turn into more regular ticketbuyers for the org. “Edge has a strong young audience, and bringing them here is a nice mix,” Sanford says. (The co-production also helps Sanford beef up programming in the Sharp.)
Edge, meanwhile, gets a boost in cred. “To have such an established company choose to work with us legitimizes us in a way,” Cantor says.
The help with the producing budget doesn’t hurt, either.
“We work so much from project to project right now,” she adds. “It’s constantly raising money and then spending it all.”