NEW YORK – The most expensive musical in Broadway history will end its run on January 4 when Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark calls it quits at the Foxwoods Theatre, a little over three years since its first problem-plagued preview.
Before an official announcement had been made, news surfaced late Monday evening in The Wall Street Journal that the $75 million mega-production would bring down its final curtain early in the new year, looking for greener commercial pastures with a Las Vegas berth in 2015. Those plans were confirmed by Jeremiah J. Harris, lead producer on the show with Michael Cohl.
The superhero musical began previews in November 2010, becoming an instant international media fixation with its string of cast and crew accidents and the abrupt dismissal of its original director and co-creator, Julie Taymor. It was significantly overhauled during previews, with performances shut down to accommodate rewrites and new staging. The official opening was delayed until June 14, 2011, setting a new record length for a Broadway preview period.
Taymor co-wrote the original book with Glen Berger, while the music and lyrics were composed by U2 members Bono and The Edge. Following Taymor’s acrimonious split from the production, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was brought in to work on the script and Philip William McKinley was hired to fine-tune the direction. Taymor’s credit as director was subsequently restored following settlement of her suit against the production.
Despite dismissive reviews from most major outlets, both for Taymor’s original version and for the modified production that finally opened in 2011, box office was stellar for the first year and a half, with media attention regularly pushing weekly grosses to $1.5 million or more. During its peak-business period, Spider-Man more than once topped the $2 million mark; in the week ending Jan. 1, 2012, it set a new record for a single-week Broadway gross, earning $2.9 million.
However, those figures dropped once initial curiosity began to wear off, slipping beneath $1 million in late August this year and remaining below that threshold ever since. Given that the show needs to make an estimated $1.2 million a week to cover running costs, the writing has been on the wall for some time. During the week ending Nov. 17, Spider-Man grossed $742,595, playing to 75 percent capacity houses.
The show has been seen by close to two million people in New York, with a total gross of $203 million to date, ranking it sixteenth among Broadway’s all-time highest earners. But with its astronomical budget and running costs, the production is not expected to recoup its capitalization, making it also likely to land among the biggest money-losers in Broadway history.
Producers are hoping that Las Vegas, where running costs generally are lower than New York, will prove a good fit for the show, with international stagings also said to be in the works.
“Our years on Broadway have afforded us the opportunity to build an internationally recognized brand, and Las Vegas, with its year-round stream of tourists seeking the world’s best entertainment, is the natural home for this next incarnation,” said Cohl and Harris in a statement released Tuesday. “To prepare for the Las Vegas production, we have tasked the creative team to push the boundaries even further, taking the same story and making it sleeker, bolder, and more spectacular than ever.”
Given the legal dispute that followed Taymor’s initial exit from the production, the original director is not expected to be involved in any retooling of the show for Vegas. Whether Bono and The Edge will be composing additional songs for the next iteration remains unclear.
Another giant musical spectacular, the Australian production King Kong, was rumored to be eyeing the Foxwoods as one of the few Broadway venues large enough to house the elaborate show. However, no New York plans have been confirmed for King Kong, which premiered earlier this year in Melbourne and is produced by Global Creatures.
The Foxwoods reportedly will remain closed for renovations while structural changes made to accommodate Spider-Man are restored to their original state.
The official confirmation of Spider-Man‘s Broadway closing was released the day after news broke, stating that further details of the production’s Vegas plans will be announced in the coming weeks.