Ineligible for the 2017 Tony’s, 1984 Struggles in Summer Season
On May 18, 2017, a new stage adaptation of 1984 began previews at the newly remodeled Hudson Theatre, where Sunday in the Park with George recently ended its limited engagement. As the cut-off for Tony Awards consideration for this year was an opening night in late April, 1984 will not be eligible for awards consideration until 2018, and by then the show will have closed long ago, unable to benefit from any awards buzz at the box office, and anyway it will be long forgotten. As for now, while it is still running, the box office is not doing so well, and the mixed reviews did not help. Based on the novel by George Orwell, this stage adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan premiered in London with the Headlong theatre company, played commercially in the West End, and toured extensively in the United Kingdom. While the novel 1984 is certainly as famous in the United States as it is in its native England, and additionally while political events in this country have been constantly compared to the events of that dystopian novel, the play has not been received with open arms in the U.S. A major reason is the timing, as a summer opening is difficult for any show, due both to the poor timing with the Tony Awards, as well as the fact that the hot months are popular for tourists, who love long-running and recent hit musicals. A serious “feel-bad” play, as Ben Brantley of the New York Times called it, 1984 is not the cool burst of air that summer audiences need.
In the last week of reported box office figures, the week ending June 25, 2017, 1984 brought in a weekly gross of $337,503, which represents 43.56% of its gross potential. This is fairly consistent with how the show has been performing in all six of the weeks it has been running thus far; the average percentage reached of gross potential is currently 41.47%. The average paid ticket price across the run is presently $54.62, and the audience has thus far been filled up to an average capacity of 77.55%. While last week demonstrated a slight upturn from the three prior weeks, the numbers are still troubling. The show, which officially opened on June 22, 2017, has not yet announced a closing date, which is often a sign of optimism that the show will run indefinitely. However, in the case of 1984, it is more likely a sign of wariness, as the show could close any minute. In fact, it’s likely that the “stop clause” might come into effect, which is a weekly gross under which the landlords have the right to evict the show from the theatre due to underperformance at the box office. In this case, though, the landlord is Ambassador Theatre Group, which happens to be the parent company to Sonia Friedman Productions, the London-based producer of 1984, which also produces some of the best fare in London and New York. While SFP programs for ATG theatres in London and New York, the two parties may likely together come to the decision that it is uneconomical to stay open much longer. With mixed reviews from the major New York critics, there is little hope that the box office will turn around anytime soon.
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