On 26th July, Moulin Rouge! opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway, and became the best-selling show of the season, with sales of $2 million a week and nearly $55 million for the year. Although it's had an impressive start, the $28 million stage adaptation of the Baz Luhrmann movie will need to maintain its current pace for a year or more, demonstrating how challenging the economics of the Broadway musical have become. Total box office for the 2019-20 season is lagging 6 percent behind that of 2018-19, while some ticket prices have decreased with tough competition.
Still, there is hope, especially when it comes to Broadway plays that use tracks of chart-topping musicians, be it the jukebox musical (Moulin Rouge!), the biographical adaptation (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) or, the newest and most promising subgenre, the musical that builds a fictional story around a set of familiar songs, like this fall's Jagged Little Pill, which reinterpreted Alanis Morissette's smash 1995 album for the #MeToo era.
"Mamma Mia! opened a lot of eyes as a show that used popular music to become a financial juggernaut. It's the one that proved you can make a lot of money doing this," says the producer of Jagged Little Pill, Vivek Tiwary, who was also a producer of the trailblazing Green Day album adaptation American Idiot. "Now you're seeing popular music permeating every facet of the entertainment industry." He added.
Moulin Rouge! producer Bill Damaschke, who spent most of his career at DreamWorks Animation, relates the new economics of the Broadway musical to that of making an animated movie because of the amount of patience required. "Animation is very expensive to make. The theater is the same thing," he says. "It's so much development." As such, most producers say the budget, ideally, is in the $13 million to $16 million range (Damaschke's The Prom, which is migrating to Netflix as a Ryan Murphy-directed movie, cost $13 million). Investors should expect to break even within the first year, with a show running for five or six years (that translates into four or five years of profit). and that has investors returning and considering their Broadway options. Tiwary says, "People are calling me, asking whether there is a Broadway musical in their catalog or albums."