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That’s Gross, Big Ideas Edition: Let’s Keep This Show Open… by Threatening to Close It

We’ve all seen it. Your friends are in a terrible relationship that’s on the verge of ending, but rather than just breaking up, they decide to “take a break.” Then, after two weeks, someone pulls the plug and ends it.

That’s what it feels like when Broadway producers announce that “unless business improves” they’ll be forced to close their shows in just a few weeks on some arbitrary new date. Why pretend that anything with your f’ed up relationship is going to change? Just end it now.

If this season taught us anything, it’s that this tactic is, well, BS. Take Bonnie & ClydeGodspell, and Jesus Christ Superstar for example—they all pulled this same trick and still pulled the plug.

Bonnie & Clyde did it first. On December 8, Telecharge sent out e-mails to ticketholders stating that Bonnie & Clyde would close on December 30. Producers quickly responded, claiming that this wasn’t an official closing notice – they were just capping ticket sales at December 30 in order to stir up interest in the musical. So by cutting off any sort of advance, they were going to save their musical? It sounded like warped logic to us, and it was. The week ending 12/11/11, there was a slight increase in gross ($404,289 from $341,908), but a drop in capacity from 90.4% to 81.6%. The week ending 12/18/11, grosses dropped to $333,379 and capacity dropped to 63%. So it’s no wonder that on December 16, the producers officially announced a December 30 closing.

The folks behind Godspell were a little more candid. Lead producer Ken Davenport wrote on his blog on June 5 that Godspell would close on June 24 unless there was “a sizable uptick in sales” after the June 10 Tony performance. Neither the announcement nor the performance helped. In the week ending 6/10/12, Godspell saw a 5.7% drop in capacity (down to 45.8%) — and a gross of $156,437, an all-time low. Two days later, Davenport announced an official closing. And although the show’s capacity over the next two weeks would increase to 58.8%, it wasn’t enough to save the show.

And then there’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Producers of the Tony-nominated revival announced on June 19 that the musical would close on July 1 “unless business improves.” But then, after lackluster gains in the following week, producers officially confirmed the closing date with just eight performances left to go.  Jesus Christ Superstar was able to finish the week ending July 1 at 79.3% capacity, and $678,052 gross. That’s a 23.5% increase. A successful bump, but too little, too late.

The moral of the story? That “unless business improves” crap is a total waste of everyone’s time. Just come out and say it already. Because just like we’d tell our friends in that bad relationship—it’s not worth beating a dead horse.

Grosses are provided courtesy of The Broadway League. Click here to read this week’s complete list of grosses.

More from NineDaves and LovelyLinda can be found on their respective blogs.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Renee July 5, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Ugh. Seriously. The false hope engendered by those conditional closing notices is worse than a closing announcement. You feel like you’re getting walloped with the same bad news twice… because after that first announcement, everyone knows the closing notice isn’t far behind. It’s just cruel to everyone concerned. :(

  • Jeff Kyler July 7, 2012, 8:02 pm

    At the risk of showing my age, this is actually a very old tactic by show producers. It goes probably farther back than I recognize, but for my generation, when all of your Broadway news came out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays when theatre articles were prominently featured on those days in The New York Times and Variety, we’d study the show listing charts for cast changes and the ominous “Last Weeks!” Today, that mostly means the “last weeks” of a limited run or the tactic you write about. Then, it meant you had 2 weeks to buy tickets. Many times, “upticks” in sales DID extend the runs of shows. I remember that the original production of 42nd Street announced “Last Weeks” in order to gage interest before completely closing at the Majestic Theatre to make way for The Phantom of the Opera. Interest was so great with that “Last Weeks” announcement, that the show not only stayed open, but moved across the street to finish its run at the St. James, where it stayed for just under 2 YEARS. Yes, today it is yet another sham, or so it would seem, but “back in the day” it meant something.

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