Even with 8 million Twitter followers, pop star Ricky Martin couldn’t make “Evita” profitable.
Undone by high weekly running costs, Broadway’s top-selling show to open in 2012 closed Saturday night without earning back the $11 million raised from investors.
The failure of “Evita” illustrates the risks of producing large, star-driven musical revivals, which generally have a shorter life than a popular all-new show.
The 1979 original, with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, ran nearly four years; the revival just 46 weeks. Given its sales, it would have taken at least 63 weeks for the production to break even. (The production cost $9.6 million.)
A budget and early results were obtained from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman through a Freedom of Information Law request and from a Broadway investor.
The show was capitalized at $11 million, including $1 million held in reserve. Ticket sales averaged about $1.03 million per week after deducting credit card commissions and other fees that producers don’t keep. Weekly expenses were about $880,000 including royalties paid to the director, composer and others.
“You’re playing to a very narrow profit margin,” said Jack Viertel, artistic director of the Encores! concert series, referring to large revivals generally. “Stars in revivals make sense if you believe you have a business model that can make back its money in a reasonable amount of time.”
New York critics were underwhelmed by Argentinian star Elena Roger in the title role. But Martin proved a huge draw, as evidenced by the dips when he missed performances. When he didn’t renew his one-year contract, the lead producers, Hal Luftig and Scott Sanders, searched for replacements to extend the run, without success.
Luftig and Sanders declined to comment for this story, said Leslie Papa, a production spokesman.
With a cast of three dozen, “Evita” was a large-scale undertaking. While Martin’s pay as Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara wasn’t fully detailed, the budget lists a “star percentage” bonus of 10 percent of weekly box office above $700,000 and “star perqs” (perquisites) of $18,500 a week. The five principals shared about $170,000 a week in pay and perquisites at the outset of the run.
That’s nearly three times the initial weekly pay of the entire 27-actor company of 2011’s monster hit “The Book of Mormon.”
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, which owns the rights to the show, was paid a onetime fee of $100,000. In addition, Lord Lloyd Webber and Really Useful earned fees and royalties totaling about $70,000 a week. From that, lyricist Tim Rice received an undisclosed portion of the authors’ $6,300 weekly license fee.
Really Useful’s compensation includes these weekly whoppers: More than $5,000 for “management advice and services remotely from the United Kingdom” and $3,500 for “costumes, sets and props in the Broadway production.”
Never mind that the revival, which originated in London, had its own Tony Award-winning designer, Christopher Oram. (Really Useful also received 15 percent of sales of Broadway merchandise.)
Expenses associated with the Marquis Theatre added up: During the first month, when the company was rehearsing, rent, musicians, stagehands, box office and other staff cost approximately $250,000 a week.
Overall, the show needed to gross an additional 13 percent each week, or a total of about $1.18 million after deducting for credit card commissions, just to repay investors within a year.
The bottom line: Celebrities are no guarantee of an audience large enough to earn back investors’ money.
To contact the reporter of this story: Philip Boroff in New York at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.