Mixed Reviews, Soft Box Office Sales, and No Tony Nominations
When Amélie, A New Musical began Broadway previews on March 9, 2017 ahead of its opening night on April 3, 2017, it was scheduled for an open-ended run. Prior to the mixed reviews hitting the press, the box office was already on thin ice, with weekly grosses averaging around 60% of their potential. After opening night, when the reviews were leaning towards negative, the outlook became even more bleak, as the weekly grosses were then hovering around 50% of their gross potential. The situation became dire by the last week of April, when the weekly gross was just $378,019 over 8 performances, which represented 38.36% of its gross potential. Then, on May 2, 2017, the Tony Award nominations were announced, and Amélie received a grand total of zero in a highly competitive season. Unlike last season, when Hamilton was the clear frontrunner from the beginning, this season has more room for different shows to shine. However, Amélie was not slated to be one of them. The week the nominations were announced, the week ending May 7, 2017, Amélie hit rock bottom with its lowest weekly gross yet: $353,443, which represented just 35.87% of its gross potential. On May 4, 2017, with no hope in sight, it was announced that the show would close on May 21, 2017.
There was reason to think that Amélie would fare to at least moderate success on Broadway. After all, it starred Phillipa Soo in the title role, fresh off her Tony nominated stint originating the lead female role of Eliza in Hamilton. Furthermore, the regional try-out productions at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, followed by the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, were fairly well-reviewed, which made the show seem like a promising bet for Broadway. However, it quickly became clear that the brand recognition of this indie film, along with the theatre-specific fame of the lead actress, would not be enough to boost the success of this poorly reviewed musical. Amélie was an incredibly successful film, becoming the highest grossing French language film in the United States, and earning five Academy Award nominations. However, Broadway producers have a tough time learning that the movie to musical adaptation is a tough nut to crack, and is not really ever a very good bet, unless the musical radically reinvents the source material, taking advantage of the unique theatricality that the stage has to offer. Examples of more successful movie to musical adaptations include Once, The Producers, and Hairspray, but without the spark of originality, the formula alone is not very dependable.
Cast Album Released, and Phillipa Soo Out for the Count
On May 19, 2017, Warner Music Group released the original Broadway soundtrack digitally, and yesterday, June 9, 2017, the albums hits stores. While the Broadway show, which was capitalized at $12 million, has certainly closed at a loss, there may be a long tail of revenue for the show’s backers. In addition to the cast album, which will provide a trickle of income, the new musical Amélie will undoubtedly be produced in regional and amateur productions in coming years, and the licensing fees could add up to a significant sum. Nevertheless, the production will almost certainly remain in the red for a long time, if not the indefinite future. As for Phillipa Soo, it turns out that she played her bets wrong, and should have remained if not in Hamilton, then in the lead role of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, which she originated in the first production at Ars Nova. Natasha, Pierre… earned the most Tony nominations of any show this season, including one for Denee Benton, who took over the role of Natasha from Phillipa Soo.
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