Ready or Not, Here Comes the 'Spider-Man' Musical

Opening is Tuesday, for real. But will the show make anyone any money?

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It took ten years, two directors, a rumored $70 million budget and multiple aerial stunt mishaps, but Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is ready for its Broadway debut.

As of last night's 177th preview performance at the Foxwoods Casino Theatre, the production is "frozen" in advance of opening night next week. "In this case," writes Patrick Healy in the New York Times, "[the freeze is] an end to months of script rewrites, new lyrics and choreography, and rehearsals of new material by day while putting on eight performances a week (sometimes of the old material)."

Not everyone on the production team seemed confident that the show could remain lashed down and trouble-free for six days. "I assure you that there are a lot of very excited and relieved people at the Foxwoods Theater today," said director Philip William McKinley, who replaced Julie Taymor in March and helped overhaul the play during a month-long production shutdown. "But no one will be celebrating until Tuesday night."

(They also won't be seeing a red-and-blue lit Empire State Building to mark the opening of the show. According to Playbill,  "Executives at the New York landmark said they would only do so if a battle between the Green Goblin and Spider-Man, which is depicted in the $70 million musical, was shifted from the Chrysler Building to the Empire State Building" and "producers of the musical were unwilling to make what would have been an extremely costly change to the musical's set.")

How long the show is capable of lasting is another difficult question. Healy reports that "[t]he revamped show has been earning about $1.2 million in recent weeks, and has brought in $3.5 million since resuming preview performances three and a half weeks ago." Those numbers are "in the same ballpark" with the grosses for Taymor's version, "which earned $26.7 million from late November to the middle of April,"or, "roughly enough to cover weekly running costs." Zero-sum shows don't tend to last very long on Broadway. Healy, citing estimates by the show's producers, says the weekly take will have to "rise closer to the $1.7 million mark,  in order for investors to eventually see a financial return."

We crunched the numbers, and they're pretty intimidating. What it comes down to is, the show's box office revenue needs to increase by more than 41 percent for the backers to make any money. Granted, the previews have been taking place a theater in a casino in Connecticut, but it's a nice theater in a casino in Connecticut, and the seats have been full every night. The Broadway mark-up will help, but will audiences be clamoring to see a production with bad buzz , especially one they already could have seen 177 times before?

Maybe it will turnout to be one of those spectacle shows (like Taymor's The Lion King) that people just want to go to and witness. But we wouldn't bet any of Uncle Ben's retirement savings on it.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.