The autumn back-to-school slump hit Broadway hard last week, with overall box office totals falling like leaves — and superhero tuner “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” emerging as the production with perhaps the most cause for concern.
The musical, which habitually lands in the millionaires’ club but carries notoriously high weekly running costs, dipped below the $1 million mark a couple of weeks ago, unusually early pre-Labor Day timing for a show popular with tourist auds. That could have been a fluke, though, or perhaps fallout from the show’s latest actor accident Aug. 15. But after a second frame of posting sales just below $1 million, last week the tuner pulled in just $790,714 for eight performances.
That’s the production’s lowest tally since its $200,000 debut in its very first week of previews — when it played just one lone perf. Attendance last week fell by nearly 10% (to 9,631), more than the Street-wide average of about 4.5%.
It remains to be seen if the musical’s current downswing reps a temporary fluctuation or an indicator of a more severe trend. Should the latter prove the case, doubts will begin to be raised about just how long the musical can hold onto its Broadway house. (The musical still has plenty of revenue potential, however, in its brewing international and touring incarnations.)
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Both of this week’s tyro entries, Zachary Quinto starrer “The Glass Menagerie” ($318,952 for six perfs) and musical “Big Fish” ($383,543 for four) posted relatively healthy tallies for titles just starting their runs. But that new coin wasn’t enough to stop the overall downward slide that traditionally hits the Rialto in the early September weeks when consumers’ attention is more focused on getting back into the swing of school or work, rather than on taking in a Broadway show.
Every single ongoing production posted declines in the wake of Labor Day, starting at the top of the charts, although still-hot musical “The Book of Mormon” ($1,692,289) was barely dented by the seasonal downturn. That show beat out “The Lion King” ($1,680,327) for the top spot, while last spring’s Tony fave, “Kinky Boots” ($1,507,607), held onto enough business to muscle ahead of “Wicked” ($1,373,885) for the first time.
The revivals of “Annie” ($595,536), which recently posted its closing notice, and “Cinderella” ($686,831) both slipped notably low, likely hobbled by back-to-school distractions for the family auds that make up a large chunk of each show’s target demo. Another spring musical with little-girl appeal, “Matilda” ($1,099,556), dropped a whopping $235,000, but still held onto its place in the millionaires’ club.
Among the fall openers currently in previews, Orlando Bloom starrer “Romeo and Juliet” ($442,142) was off somewhat but nonetheless held relatively steady in a tough week. “Forever Tango” ($190,462) continued its slide, and the Jewish holiday at the end of last week did no favors for the Street’s struggling musical about a guitar-playing rabbi, “Soul Doctor” ($110,717).
The double-whammy of the Labor Day return to school plus the fall’s Jewish holidays usually spells trouble for the Broadway box office, and there’s still Yom Kippur to contend with later this week. But there’s a silver lining: With early-bird starts for a number of fall offerings — both “Romeo and Juliet” and “Glass Menagerie” open later this month — there’s a chance recovery may be closer than usual.