September 21, 2007 Alfred Branch Jr.
By Carol-Ann Rudy
A new controversy is budding regarding the latest spoof of a book-cum-movie-cum-remake, Young Frankenstein, previewing October 11 and opening November 8 at the Hilton Theatre (originally, it was planned to open on Halloween).
Robert F. X. Sillerman and Mel Brooks, producers of the block-buster musical The Producers, have decided not to release figures on the weekly box office take or other pertinent information – attendance, average paid admission, and so on – traditionally made public via reporting through the American Theatre League. That tradition, while not a legal requirement, dates back to the depression era of 1937.
If they follow through with this break from tradition, it may or may not serve them well. Variety publishes its own list and will continue to do so. It will undoubtedly be able to estimate Young Frankenstein’s success; hearsay and rumors can be relied upon to be ready sources. As an example, information abounds for productions in London’s West End, although there is no public reporting of numbers.
Sillerman is responsible for the tiered pricing model for selling tickets, a model that is followed by most productions on Broadway now. It may be that others will follow suit in this latest revolt against tradition.
This move marks the second growing controversy in the theater ranks in as many months, as some Broadway productions have stopped allowing the press to attend and review shows in advance.
There may be good reasons not to publish their box office take: in making this decision, they can accomplish two things. One, they will avoid the appearance of greed while charging a “premier price” of $450 for prime seats. That tops the runner-up Jersey Boys’ highest seat, offered at $350. A few center section seats for Young Frankenstein are offered at the bargain price of $120 each, plus an additional theater restoration charge. Second, withholding information may dampen speculation that the receipts at the box office aren’t that great, should that be the case in the coming weeks.
One good reason for publishing box office receipts: the terrific ticket sales for The Producers engendered increased media coverage. It could do the same for Young Frankenstein should they change their minds.
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Blogs will certainly offer reviews by those attending, for better or worse, and may increasingly impact attendance at shows regardless of sales figures being posted.