EDIT: BWW forum update has removed a lot of my formatting (e.g., paragraphs). Ignore the clumsiness.
It just occurred to me that it is easy to calculate the actual average weekly nuts of shows that have announced recoupment when we know their initial investment, with the following two assumptions:
• Producers announce recoupment very shortly after actually recouping
• A show recoups because its box office receipts minus a certain amount of expenses per week equals the initial investment, and this amount per week is the 'weekly nut'. And I assume that if a show does not meet its weekly nut, that loss is added back to the money it has to recoup (e.g., If MEMPHIS in total lost 20k before it won BEST MUSICAL it had to recoup back its original investment plus the 20k it lost from simply running).
• I've taken 9% off the grosses for tax, thanks Mikem
• My % of "gross potential" figures should be considered +/1 about 4% because I wasn't too precise with this particular calculation. I find the financial aspects of Broadway shows interesting, so I am going to post some random thoughts and knowledge I have found in case anyone else is interested. Looking at some shows that have recouped, there are some interesting surprises here.
1. The Book of Mormon (still running) The Book of Mormon is expensive to run. According to the NYtimes the investment was 11.4 million, and it recouped approx. November 29th 2011. For it to only generate 11.4 million dollars of profit in 42 weeks of performances it must have had an average weekly nut of 768k. This is higher than I would have imagined, and approximately 75% of the “gross potential”. Interestingly, this is far above the “50%” number that is thrown around here – and there was a month of initial performances where they likely lost a substantial amount of money ($400k) (I am adjusting the weekly nut pro rata for the number of performances cause they didn’t start with a full 8, which is likely not a perfect estimate but it’s all I can do at the moment).
2. Wicked (still running) Wicked is (was) also expensive to run back in 2003. Because of inflation and increased salaries, it is likely even more expensive to run now. According to the NYtimes the investment was $14 million, and it recouped approx. December 21, 2004. For it to only generate $14 million of profit in 63 weeks of performances it must have had an average weekly nut of approx.. 872k. This is approx. 77% the gross potential, and once again far above the “50%” number that is sometimes thrown around here.
3. Pippin (still running) Pippin is also surprisingly expensive to run. According to the NYtimes, the investment was $8.5 million, and it recouped approx.. December 2, 2013. For it to only generate $8.5 million of profit in 38 weeks of performances it must have had an average weekly nut of 592k. We are a bit closer to the 50% number now, at around 65%. Interestingly, it also suggests that if the weekly running cost of Pippin has not reduced substantially, they could be in trouble for the future.
4. Once (still running) According to the NYtimes, the investment was $5.5 Million, and it recouped approx.. August 13th 2012. For it to generate $5.5 million of profit in 24 weeks it must have had an average weekly nut of $508k. This is approx.. 54% of the potential grosses over this period, so here we can see it was an indeed accurate rule of thumb. Once could be in trouble.
5 Kinky boots (still running) Kinky boots recouped $13.5 million in 30 weeks. Its nut must have had an average of 752k per week (approx. 57% gross potential)
6. Memphis (closed) Memphis was an interesting show because it only just recouped when it closed after three years! According to NYtimes it costs $12 million. For it to generate $12 million in profit in 150 weeks it must have had an average weekly nut of approx. 548k. Interestingly, this is almost exactly 50% (52%) of their gross potential, which is consistent with the 50% rule of thumb. It’s also such an interesting risk the producers took, which paid off. The show likely had not even covered its weekly operating costs until it won the Tony Award for best musical. In fact, the show may not have made its weekly nut for 30% of the weeks it was open.
7. next to normal (closed) The story of next to normal becoming a hit is so nice. To get back 4 million in the time it did Its weekly nut on average must have been 260k* (approx. 46% of gross potential) - surely one of the cheapest musicals to ever run on Broadway. It likely didn’t reach its weekly nut for 6 weeks after previews started. The choice to bring in replacements instead of close was an interesting risk. They may have lost money for 9 of the 25 weeks after the replacements came in (although they might have been able to reduce costs without Tony Award winner Alice Ripley). However, a few strong weeks throughout and particularly at the end of the run meant in total they could have made a profit of 822k for the total replacement run (785k (95%) of which in the final 6 out of 25 weeks), at the same time exposing another approximately 120,000 people to the show and brand. A very smart decision to close when they did. * This is consistent with a NYTimes article that says their weekly nut was "early to mid 200s". What about shows that haven't made a profit?
8. Matilda (still running) According to independent.co.uk Matilda's capital was $16 million. For Matilda not to have recouped yet, its weekly nut must be over 800k (over 68% potential gross) No wonder ticket prices are so expensive. Broadway shows are so expensive to run. The data also suggests we should be cautious with the 50% rule. It can be true, but it can also be substantially different.
UPDATE: I estimate Matilda's average weekly nut is about 838k. They've had a few rough weeks as of late. It also makes weekly nut 71.50% of (91%) of their gross potential. Very expensive show to run. This is despite a NYtimes article when it first opened claiming the weekly nut was down at 600k: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/theater/matilda-arrives-on-broadway-with-big-dreams.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
9. Follies revival (closed) According to the NYPost FOLLIES had a weekly nut of approximately 600k (which seems quite cheap looking at the other shows, although it was a few years ago now). GIven this, It likely only lost money 2 out of the 27 weeks, but didn't run long enough to turn a profit. It might have made back approximately half of the investment (3.5/7 million). The only chance they had to make a profit in that short timeframe were to hit a million dollars every week. I wonder "what if" It opened in a prime time (i.e., spring) and was open for the Tony awards. Maybe it would have then run to the end of the year and made a profit. Oh well.
10. A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder (still running). According to the NYtimes, in 33 weeks they did not returned a single dollar of their investment. If we assume that they have at least broken even, I would estimate their average weekly nut to be about 457k, about 56% weekly potential gross (I think this is a conservatively low estimate because if they had a 1 million reserve they might be using it). If you graph their profit/loss it is clear that the Tony awards probably saved this show.
11. Fun Home
Fun Home has recouped in about 37 weeks. To be able to gross 5.25 million in profit during this time, its nut must be approximately 455k per week, which is somewhere around the 60% gross potential mark (rough). One of the cheaper shows on Broadway, but not pocket change.
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