Two weeks ago, Broadway producers grimly wondered if the four weeks of concessions extracted from the theatrical unions would give their flagging musicals enough time to recover. Now, in light of last week's encouraging showing at the box office, those same producers are considering giving the rank and file onstage and behind the scenes some of their money back.
For the week ending Sept. 30, Broadway shows displayed across-the-board box office increases over the previous week, with jumps ranging from $32,133 (Urinetown) to $218,596 (Aida). Over all, the Rialto took in $9,046,125 — less than a million off last year's mark at this time, indicating that Times Square theatre may recover from the effects of the Sept. 11 catastrophe (at least in terms of audience) within a week or two.
One producer, Cameron Mackintosh, has already decided to roll back the cuts. Mackintosh won concessions for both The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. A spokesman for the show told Playbill On-Line that, instead of a 25 percent cut last week, labor will take only a 12.5 percent. The same will apply for the current week if sales hold.
Brig Berney, the company manager of Rent, told Playbill On-Line, ""It is [the producers'] hope to give back as much as possible to those who took a reduced salary." However, the show will take a "wait and see" approach, examining the musical's fortunes at the end of the four week period, which concludes Oct. 21. A spokesman for Chicago said the show's producers, Barry and Fran Weissler, intended to review the situation again next week. The Weissler's are " guardedly optimistic," said press representative Pete Sanders, and may possibly return all the money sacrificed by labor.
Answering a call placed by Playbill On-Line, Kiss Me, Kate company manager Bruce Klinger declined to speak on the subject of concessions.
Last week's $9 million figure represented a roughly $1.25 million leap over last week's take. The productions which won union concessions, to ease their way through the rocky economic times which followed the World Trade Center attacks, showed signs of renewed health. Chicago's box office rose from $287,299 to $419,645. Les Miz saw an increase of $140,000 to $305,838. Rent leaped $100,000 to $316,585. And The Music Man, which was ready to close on Sept. 23, had one of the best showings, climbing from $212,144 to $393,128. Nearly all the union assisted shows filled more than 65 percent of their seats, the exceptions being the Cameron Mackintosh musicals Les Miz and Phantom, which hovered around 55 percent capacity.
The Producers and The Lion King remained, as ever, impervious to the current situation, each taking in more than $1 million dollars and boasting audience attendance surpassing 101 percent of capacity.