Tony Awards: CBS Telecast Exposure Brings Hefty Box-Office Boost

3:17 PM PST 06/09/2014 by David Rooney
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Tony winners Lena Hall, Neil Patrick Harris, Audra McDonald and Jessie Mueller backstage at Radio City Music Hall

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," Disney's "Aladdin" and "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" are among Tony-winning shows that saw ticket demand soar on Monday.

NEW YORK – It’s a no-brainer that winning a top Tony Award is good for business on Broadway. But even shows that go home with secondary honors or empty-handed can get a substantial bump at the box office from a well-chosen production number on the CBS telecast.

Broadway’s biggest annual marketing splash, which took place Sunday night when the 68th Tony Awards were presented at Radio City Music Hall, already has had a major impact on best musical winner A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

A spokesperson for that Gilbert and Sullivan-style musical comedy about a disinherited commoner eliminating every branch of the aristocratic family tree that stands between him and his birthright said sales on Monday will total in excess of $900,000 for the day. That’s roughly 10 times higher than any Monday in recent weeks since the Tony nominations were announced.

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While Gentleman’s Guide earned some of the strongest reviews of the season, it has been only a modest performer, grossing $16.5 million since it opened at the Walter Kerr Theatre last November. The show's four Tony wins – including best new musical, book, direction and costumes – stand to give it a significant push through the summer months.

The cast performed “I’ve Decided to Marry You” on the Tonys, introduced by lead Jefferson Mays illustrating his transformative quick-change skills as three of the nine characters he plays in the show.

Neck-and-neck with Gentleman’s Guide in forecasts for the big prize, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ended up with two Tonys – for lead actress Jessie Mueller as the Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter and for sound design.

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But a rousing number on the telecast, during which King herself joined Mueller and the ensemble on “I Feel the Earth Move,” clearly had an impact on the core baby boomer demographic and perhaps beyond. Reps report that the show is on target to do close to $1 million in sales between Sunday’s broadcast and end-of-day Monday.

Beautiful is already turning into the sleeper hit of the season. The show officially opened at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in January and has grossed a robust $25.2 million to date.

One of the televised production numbers that scored high approval on theater chat sites was featured actor in a musical winner James Monroe Iglehart’s high-energy performance of the Genie’s song “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin.

The Disney show is on track to wrap just over $1 million in sales on Monday, which is around five times the standard for a weekday. That puts advance sales for Aladdin at almost $18 million, second only to The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Last week’s gross of $1.28 million was the highest to date for Aladdin, which has been doing sellout business at the New Amsterdam since opening in March, with a current box-office total of $16.4 million.

Advanced discussions reportedly are underway with partners on four international productions.

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Among other Tony winners, A Raisin in the Sun, which took three trophies including best revival, featured actress Sophie Okonedo and director Kenny Leon, will possibly see the most negligible sales impact. That’s because there’s nothing left to sell aside from perhaps a few house seats to the smash limited engagement, which closes Sunday. Starring Denzel Washington, the drama has been steadily grossing north of $1 million a week, with a cumulative total to date of just under $15 million.

Also nearing the end of its limited 20-week run, with a total gross of $15.2 million to date, is All the Way, Robert Schenkkan’s political bio-drama about Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, which closes June 29.

The production had a big day on Sunday – Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton were in attendance at the matinee, stopping by backstage after the show to wish the cast good luck on Tony night. It must have worked, since the production took home awards in both of its nominated categories, for best new play and lead actor Bryan Cranston.

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Producer Jeffrey Richards said All the Way looks likely to wrap between $300,000 and $350,000 on Monday. His other double Tony-winner, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, which won for lead actress in a play for Audra McDonald and for sound design, is eyeing a post-Tonys day total in the $200,000-$250,000 range. Both those results are roughly three times the norm for a Monday.

“It’s a real shot in the arm for both shows, which had already been doing excellent business,” Richards told The Hollywood Reporter. “We don’t have that many seats left to sell for All the Way, which recouped at the end of May, and Lady Day is on the road to recoupment.”

Another big winner at the Tonys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, snagged four awards, including musical revival, lead actor in a musical for Neil Patrick Harris and featured actress in a musical for Lena Hall. Producers declined to provide box-office estimates for Monday, but the show just posted its best week, breaking its own house record at the Belasco Theater with a gross of $1,021,708.

With Harris only contracted to star through Aug. 17, industry observers will be watching closely to see if the Tony winner extends his run or if producers will go after a marquee-name replacement. The revival’s capacity houses and grosses to date of close to $10 million since it opened on April 22 make it appear unlikely that the transgender East Berlin rocker chick with the botched sex-change surgery won’t extend her stay on Broadway.

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While Monday box-office hikes were not easily quantifiable at most shows, other productions that benefited from Tony telecast exposure included the musicals Rocky, Violet, Cabaret and If/Then, which effectively showcased a soaring power ballad performed by breakout Frozen star Idina Menzel. A rep for those productions said, “They all had a nice, healthy increase in box office as a response to last night.”

Management at the Les Miserables revival also reported that sales since last night have been running 50 percent higher than the average Sunday or Monday, while Bullets Over Broadway producers said in a statement, “We are pleased with last night’s Tony telecast as well as our sales today.”

The true measure of the Tonys’ impact on box office will begin to be seen next Monday, when figures for the first full post-awards week are released. While preliminary ratings results show average viewership of the awards ceremony on CBS down to 7.02 million from last year’s 7.24 million, that’s still a heap more advertising exposure than many shows get all season.

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