Happy Birthday, 'Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark'!
One year ago today, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark swung into New York City’s Foxwoods Theatre for its very first preview—a disastrous outing that was stopped five times as wires fell, scenery broke, and two actors were left dangling helplessly in midair. Twelve months, two directors, six rescheduled opening nights, and 369 performances later, how is Broadway’s injury-ridden, lawsuit-stricken, most-expensive-musical-ever faring?
Eh. On the celebratory side, since starting previews, Spider-Man’s been playing to nearly full houses (665,395 total tickets sold so far) and grossing an average of $1.4 million a week, despite earning mostly bad reviews when it opened in June. Last week—which included the tourist-filled Thanksgiving holiday—the musical didn’t just best all its previous weekly grosses by earning $2.1 million dollars, it also it broke Foxwoods’ record for the highest six-day haul by a single show. Granted, the venue has hosted only eight other productions, including flops like The Pirate Queen, in its 13-year history.
On the bury-your-head-and-pretend-your-birthday-is-just-another-day side, the New York Times estimated that the $75 million show, which costs over $1 million a week to operate, would have to play at this capacity for at least five more years in order to pay off its debts. And that projection doesn’t account for the legal fees accrued to fight lawsuits recently filed by original director Julie Taymor and investor Patricia Lambrecht—or any possible payouts.
So what’s a 1-year-old show to do? Improve with age. According to the Times, rather than relying on money from touring productions or international versions of the musical to recoup its investment, Spider-Man‘s producers are going to first focus on bettering the current show in New York (albeit with costly endeavors). Among their ideas: adding a new scene and musical number every year. They’ll also expand Spidey’s radio advertising campaign across the country and continue to aggressively court foreign tourists. Who knows–we could be back here next year celebrating the show’s terrible twos.