Broadway Proving Not So Welcoming to Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein, the mega powerful film producer and distributor whose countless credits include Shakespeare in Love, Gangs of New York, The Artist, and The King’s Speech, has served as lead producer for the first time of a Broadway show. Finding Neverland, based on the 2004 film of the same name which Weinstein executive produced, is a new musical that has been running at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre since it began previews on March 15, 2015. Its official opening night was April 15, 2015. Technically, Weinstein has been on the producing team of several Broadway shows in the past such as The Producers and Billy Elliot, but his involvement with those shows was almost exclusively financial. With Finding Neverland, he takes on the full producing responsibility for the first time on Broadway. Unfortunately, Broadway is proving a tough nut to crack, even for a man as powerful as Weinstein. The most important recognition that a show can receive is the Tony Award, and Finding Neverland was nominated for a grand total of zero of these awards. Proving the hostility Weinstein felt towards the Broadway community, he rescinded the invitations to the approximately 700 Tony voters, who are generally offered a free pair of tickets to all shows on Broadway. Though he had already sent out those invitations prior to the nominations, he bitterly revoked the offer upon the show receiving no nominations.
In line with the Tony nominating committee’s decision not to recognize Finding Neverland, the show received almost entirely negative reviews after its opening night. Ben Brantley of The New York Times disdained the show, not falling for the strength of the brand name of the show or its stars, Kelsey Grammer and Matthew Morrison. David Cote of Time Out New York was equally unimpressed, calling the show awkward, garish, and manipulative. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter reported that the show was severely lacking in charm, despite admitting that it is probably critic-proof due to the strong brand name and pre-opening ticket sales. Jesse Green of Vulture found the show utterly false and therefore deeply frustrating. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was only slightly more generous, admitting there is some thrilling stage magic but ultimately finding it erratic. However, as The Hollywood Reporter presaged, the show is proving immune to these negative reviews, as it has been over the million dollar mark at the box office for every full week of its run so far.
Strong Box Office and Celebrity Album
Though Weinstein may be aggravated by the lack of full welcome to the Broadway community, his ticketbuyers don’t seem to be devastated. In the most recently reported week of ticket sales, the week ending May 24, 2015, Finding Neverland brought in a weekly gross of $1,107,925, which is almost exactly how much the weekly gross has been since its first full week ending March 22, 2015, give or take $100,000 at the most. That weekly gross represents 75.06% of the show’s gross potential, and the audience capacity was an average of 94.2% full. Therefore, there is some room for growth still in the box office grosses, but failing motivation from Tony recognition or critical appreciation, Weinstein is trying another approach. One innovation he has introduced is that he is releasing an album of celebrities singing the score for Finding Neverland, though most of these celebrities are not involved with the show. This is pure promotion, and Weinstein clearly knows how to pull a lot of strings. The extensive list of impressive singers on the album include Christina Aguilera, Nick Jonas, Jon Bon Jovi, John Legend, the Goo Goo Dolls, Kiesza, Jennifer Lopez, Ellie Goulding, and Matthew Morrison, only the last of which is actually in the cast of the show. The album is to be released on June 9, 2015 via Republic Records, although pre-sales started on May 12, 2015. In addition to providing another income stream for the show, this album is sure to spur continued interest in the Broadway musical, which is still looking for that last boost to reach its full gross potential.