In a front-page story the Wall Street Journal May 23 profiled the producers of the Broadway musical Rent, calling their $4000 purchase of commercial rights to the hit, "one of the great home-run bets in show-business history."
The story, which estimates annual proceeds from the musical in the neighborhood of $75 million, tells the story of how Jeffrey Seller, 31, and Kevin McCollum, 34, saw a workshop production of the Jonathan Larson musical in November of 1994.
At the end of the first act, WSJ reports, "McCollum uttered four fateful words: 'Get out the checkbook.'"
The story says their investment, plus that of a third partner, Allan Gordon (described as in his 50s), "has Broadway's most seasoned financiers shaking their heads in astonishment and envy."
The musical has won all the 1996 awards as best musical for which it has been eligible, and is nominated for the Tony Award as Best Musical June 2. Of greater interest to the WSJ, the story reports that Rent booked $10 million in ticket sales in nine weeks and is sold out through August. The story speculates that if the Nederlander Theatre stays at 90 percent capacity, it will earn more than $24 million a year, creating a pre-tax operating profit of $8 million. Add to the that the $1 million paid by DreamWorks SKG for the original cast album, the $4 million being bid for the movie rights, and some $55 million per year from two touring companies.
The story also said Bloomingdales department store sold 6 percent of its stock of Rent-inspired clothing in the first 24 hours of sales and is now scrambling to restock.
The only comfort for the envious is some chin-scratching from Broadway insiders wondering whether the show will appeal to traditional theatregoers who keep shows running for years, and theatre lovers outside New York.