Scarlett Johansson is guaranteed a minimum of $40,000 a week to add a dose of sex and glamour to the battered Broadway season in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” according to offering papers distributed to investors.
The base weekly pay for Broadway actors is $1,754. The offering papers illustrate how celebrities are rewarded and still have an incentive to fill seats.
The Tennessee Williams revival begins previews on Dec. 18. By then, two new plays and one musical will have made hasty exits, with “Chaplin” due to close on Jan. 6.
The 28-year-old movie star, playing the seductive and neglected wife Maggie, can earn more should “Cat” sell. She won’t match Al Pacino’s $125,000 salary for “Glengarry Glen Ross” unless “Cat” becomes a “Glengarry”-scale hit, according to “Roof Theatricals L.P.” papers obtained by Bloomberg News.
Johansson won a Tony Award for her 2010 Broadway debut, a revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” directed by Gregory Mosher, in which she co-starred with Liev Schreiber.
“People really want to see Scarlett Johansson,” said Annette Niemtzow, a producer on “Leap of Faith” and “Frost/Nixon” who isn’t involved with “Cat.” “She’s proved her chops and they want to see how she’ll do in a starring role. Maggie the cat is one of the great sexual roles.”
General manager and producer Stuart Thompson -- a publicity-shy expat Australian whom Johansson called “the classiest man in show business” during her Tony acceptance speech -- is mounting the $3.6 million revival with a cast of 18 and five understudies. Weekly sales must average $750,211, excluding credit card commissions, to repay investors over the 15-week run, according to the partnership’s preliminary estimates.
The Richard Rodgers Theatre could gross $1.2 million a week over eight performances, even before accounting for premium seats in the first 16 rows currently as dear as $240.
(Producers often raise premium prices on hit shows during a run. Discounted tickets as low as $55 are available for “Cat” in the rear mezzanine.)
“Glengarry” -- the biggest hit of the flop-filled fall -- grossed $1.2 million over eight performances in the week ended Dec. 9. Its top ticket price has been as high as $377.
Thompson and Johansson declined to comment through a production spokesman, Susanne Tighe.
In addition to her $40,000 guarantee, Johansson collects 7.5 percent of ticket sales above $530,000 (after deducting for commissions and averaged over four weeks). Once investors are paid 10 percent beyond their initial outlay, her take rises to 10 percent of grosses plus 5 percent of profit.
Benjamin Walker, a Juilliard-trained actor who’s portrayed Andrew Jackson on stage and Abraham Lincoln on film, plays Maggie’s dissolute husband, Brick. His pay and that of Ciaran Hinds (Big Daddy) and Debra Monk (Big Mama) aren’t listed.
The offering papers estimate weekly running expenses of $378,000, plus royalties.
The Williams estate gets 6 percent of box office; theater owner Nederlander Organization gets 5 percent plus $10,000 a week; director Rob Ashford earns 3 percent of sales plus a $65,000 onetime fee plus 2 percent of profits; Thompson’s Wombat Crossing 3 LLC and his general-management company earn 3 percent of box office plus a $40,000 fee, plus $6,000 a week, plus 2.5 percent of initial profits and half the investment pool.
The papers don’t disclose whether Thompson gave up any “adjusted net profit” to other producers listed in publicity materials for the show.
Given the success of “View from the Bridge” and a 2008 all-black production of “Cat” starring Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose and James Earl Jones, this production appears to have a good chance of repaying backers. Their upside is limited by the royalty pool’s increasing share of grosses and Johansson and Ashford’s profits paid off the top.
Pacino receives a minimum of $125,000 a week, plus 5 percent of any profits, according to the operating agreement for the show obtained from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“Cat” is scheduled to open on Jan. 17.
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