It’s tough to be a new musical in the fall. First, you have to make it through the slow months of September and October for any chance of holiday season success. Then, if you want a box-office bump from award nominations, you have to get through the slow winter months. Oh, and also the spring, when a crop of new shows are opening. And if you close before awards season, you might not be remembered at all.
Previews for Chaplin started on August 21. During the three weeks of previews, the show grossed $356,882, $390,616, and $488,740, only earning between 36.93% and 50.57% of its potential gross. Capacity was 71.7%, 75,3%, and 94.1%, but that last week of previews included press performances, during which capacity tends to be high. The musical opened on September 10 to mostly negative reviews. Ben Brantley wrote in his review, “It’s hard not to sympathize with the character who tells him, ‘I miss the days when you didn’t speak.’” Ouch.
In its first post-opening week, Chaplin grossed $460,925 (47.7% of its potential) and filled 87.2% of its 1,058 seats. For a show like Chaplin — unlike say, Wicked — reviews matter. There are no stars in its cast and the score is by Christopher Curtis, also an unknown. People are familiar with Charlie Chaplin and that could prove to be a draw, but he hasn’t had the cultural staying power of, say, Marilyn Monroe (quick: how many celebrities are posing in magazines dressed up like Chaplin?). Rave reviews could have led to an increase in sales, but now we’re not sure how motivated audiences will be to see it.
A closing announcement wouldn’t surprise us, but we’re guessing the producers will stick it out for a bit, although we’re not sure it’ll make it to awards season. Chaplin’s best bets for Tony nominations are probably lead actor Rob McClure and costume design — but that might be too little, to late.
Grosses are provided courtesy of The Broadway League. Click here to read this week’s complete list of grosses.