Poor Movie Reviews for Eastwood’s “Jersey Boys” Damage Dodgers’ Gravy Train

The Dodgers’ Hopes for Jersey Boys Are Dashed

Jersey Boys Broadway MusicalDodger Theatricals, the producing team behind Broadway’s Jersey Boys, hasn’t had any new tricks in a while. Their most recent Broadway production is Matilda, which has been running since April 2013. Though that show has been performing quite well at the box office, the Dodgers are only second in command there, hanging onto the coattails of the Royal Shakespeare Company who originally produced the musical in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ biggest hit in the last decade is the jukebox musical Jersey Boys, based on the life and incorporating the music of The Four Seasons. Jersey Boys has been running since November 2005 at the August Wilson Theatre, often to stupendous feats of success. Not only did the show win the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical (amongst its 4 wins and 8 nominations), but it has had excellent box office success over the years. It broke the August Wilson Theatre’s box office record for highest weekly gross for the 30th time in January 2010, and it is presently the 14th longest running show on Broadway.

Jersey Boys filmThe “Jersey Boys” Movie

In light of this success, the decision was made to adapt Jersey Boys into a film, following in the tradition of many musical to movie adaptations of recent years including Les Misérables, Chicago, Hairspray, and Rent. Unlike all of those adaptations, however, the biggest name involved with Jersey Boys is the director, Clint Eastwood. Eastwood opted to choose actors from the stage musical casts rather than filling it with big Hollywood stars. The theory was that the name of the property itself – Jersey Boys – would be enough to attract large audiences to the movie theater. However, the movie received mixed reviews, and the box office response has been fairly modest. With a budget of $40 million, the film has so far posted a domestic gross of $46,377,524 as of August 7, 2014. Though this is less than 2 months past its release date of June 20, 2014, expectations were that the box office response would be greater.

Film Reception Not Improving Broadway Grosses As Hoped

Though the Dodgers are not producers on the film, it is certain that their licensing agreement allowed for a cut of the profits of the movie. More importantly, they must have been hoping that a successful movie run would indirectly boost profits for the still running Broadway production, as the brand power of the show would increase. However, Jersey Boys on Broadway is nowhere near the financial heights that it once had reached. When it broke the theatre’s box office record, for example, it had grossed $1,440,456 in a week. Though this summer has been more successful than the spring and winter that preceded it, the box offices grosses since June have still only been hovering around $800,000 to $900,000, which is around 70% to 80% of the box office gross potential. Therefore, to the disappointment of the floundering Dodgers, the movie does not seem to be re-launching Jersey Boys as a top grossing hit.

Have The Dodgers Run Out Of Good Ideas?

Matilda Broadway Musical Roald DahlMoreover, Micheal David’s Dodgers seem to be losing steam on their own development, as they haven’t announced a new show in a while. Before Matilda, their most recent show was a revue, An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, and before that it was the notorious flop Elling which only ran for a total of nine regular performances in November 2010. Resting on the success of the RSC’s Matilda, the Dodgers now seem to have run out of good ideas. Unfortunately, it does not look like the Jersey Boys movie was the golden ticket that had been hoping for and David and his renegade team will be looking for a way out, creatively speaking, pretty soon.

Dodger Theatricals Counts On ‘Jersey Boys’ Movie To Counter Its Fading Glory On Broadway

Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical recounting the rise and fall of the 1960s rock-n-roll group The Four Seasons, has been playing at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre since 2005.  Produced by Dodger Theatricals, the musical has had quite an extraordinary run thus far.  Since earning 8 Tony Award nominations in 2006 – and winning 4, including Best Musical – Jersey Boys broke the August Wilson Theatre’s box office record for the 30th time in January 2010 (with a weekly gross of $1,440,456), and it presently holds the record for the 14th longest running show ever on Broadway.  Furthermore, the show has had two national tours and productions all over the world, from London to Singapore to South Africa.  However, though a frequent member of the millionaire’s club over the course of its run, Jersey Boys on Broadway has been struggling to compete with its old numbers in recent years.

Jersey Boys on Broadway - Marquee at August Wilson TheatreJersey Boys on Broadway - Marquee at August Wilson Theatre

Nevertheless, the producers have decided to capitalize on the musical’s global success by giving their blessing to a film adaptation.  The musical film will be released theatrically on June 20, 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures.  It is directed by Clint Eastwood, and the screenplay is written by Tony Award winning playwright John Logan (Red) based on the play script by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, including songs by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe.  The film is produced by Graham King (Argo) and Robert Lorenz (Million Dollar Baby), and executive produced by Frankie Valli.  The starring role of Frankie Valli is played by John Lloyd Young, who originated the role on Broadway and won a Tony Award for his performance.

The decision to make a film of a successful Broadway show follows the precedent led by, among others, Mamma Mia!, which released its film version in 2008 after running on Broadway since 2001.  Though the film release didn’t move the needle for the Broadway box office in that case, it did expose the show to an international audience, thereby benefitting the overall property.  However, the films of Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! differ in terms of their casting strategies.  Whereas Mamma Mia! took the big screen opportunity to woo big screen talent including Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Amanda Seyfried, Clint Eastwood has opted to cast the Jersey Boys movie with mostly stage actors, specifically those who originated the roles on Broadway.  One exception is the recent casting announcement of Christopher Walken, who will play the mobster Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo.  It will be interesting to see if the Jersey Boys movie makes as big a splash without Hollywood actors leading the cast. Two more examples of poor stage to screen transition were The Producers (2005) and Rock of Ages.(2012), both were critical and box office failures.

In any case, the added exposure beyond the stage to the screen can only help increase global awareness of the show.  Like with Les Misérables whose recent film version encouraged the 2014 revival, the Jersey Boys movie will surely increase interest in the show.  Even if, like Mamma Mia!, the film does not necessarily boost sales for the Broadway production, it will certainly help promote future touring and international productions.

Dodger Theatricals’ Matilda Offers Discount Tickets At The TKTS Booth, But Nowhere Else

Matilda  on BroadwayMatilda the Musical, which has been playing on Broadway since spring 2013, is well on its way to establishing itself as a long-running hit musical.  After being nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and winning five, Matilda’s sales remained at full audience capacity for the majority of the summer, and the production has grossed well over a million dollars every single week since last April – until two weeks ago, when Matilda fell below the million-dollar mark.  Still, between the inclement weather and traditionally slower sales season of January to February, this is not necessarily a warning sign.  For instance, this past week it was the third highest show in terms of increase in gross from the previous week (up $220,225).

Matilda is one of the Broadway shows that is least frequently represented at TDF’s discount booth in Times Square. Dodger Theatricals, who partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring the musical over from London to Broadway, initially chose to discount at the booth for only a handful of performances in these past two weeks. The discount was only in the range of 30 to 40 percent (other shows often discount 50 percent). But recently they have started discounting the maximum allowed at the booth, which is the full 50 percent. Oddly, they opted to offer discounts only at the Times Square booth, not online or at the other TDF stations at South Street Seaport and Brooklyn.  This bespeaks a hit show, with an odd twist – only a hit show has the luxury of declining the opportunity to discount, as ticket-buyers will be more willing to purchase at full price.  It makes sense that producers tend to minimize their discounts in order to maximize their gross potential and recoup their investments as quickly as possible, but show some desperation in going to the maximum discount allowed.

matilda broadway discount

Still, this raises the question of when and why producers should choose to discount.

Matilda has been hovering around 90 percent capacity for the past few weeks, and yet it did not always choose to discount – instead preferring to leave tickets unsold to create a manipulated ticket market by having less inventory.  It is a tricky balance – and one of the greatest challenges of shepherding a show as producer throughout its run – to choose when to discount, and when to hold out for full-price sales and risk leaving seats empty.  Broadway general managers devote countless man-hours to calculating the precise percentages and platforms on which to offer discounts in order to maximize gross potential.  But this decision-making isn’t all quantitative, there is also the qualitative concern of a show’s brand image.

Producers generally believe that when a show appears at the booth, ticket buyers will consider it to be less of a hit.  For instance The Book of Mormon, widely known to be a tough ticket, never appears at the booth.  Though Matilda sold over $12 million in tickets while it was still in previews, it hasn’t yet announced recoupment on its $16 million capitalization.  Once a show is in profits, producers can breathe a little more easily, but at this stage Dodger Theatricals may still be treading carefully.  Brand image is especially important in light of the fact that Matilda announced its US National Tour two weeks ago; the tour will kick off at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre in May 2015.  It is important for out-of-town visitors to feel that Matilda is such a hot show that even if they don’t manage to snag a ticket during their trip to the city, they will be very excited to attend when the musical visits their hometown.  Therefore, even if selling the remaining 10 percent of seats at a discount may lead to a higher gross in the short term, such a choice could harm the show’s brand image over time.

Matilda The Musical

If producers do not discount anywhere else, they may choose to offer the show at the TDF booth because it is an easy last-minute option.  Unlike discounts offered through NYTix or telecharge e-blasts, which require the advertising agency to design a flyer and the general managers to advise on timing well in advance, producers can turn to the booth in a pinch if they notice one particular performance is particularly low in ticket sales.  Furthermore, booth discounts are not widely advertised; unlike direct mail discounts that arrive at homes around the country or ticket blasts that are sent to a slew of inboxes, the booth is a fairly private way to advertise discounts to tourists or New Yorkers who happen to show up that day and are rewarded with a whopping 50% discount on tickets to Matilda, something you cannot find anywhere else.  TDF’s website only shows discounts from the past week, and then they disappear from record, which also protects the brand from dilution.

Still, in offering discounts only at the Times Square TKTS booth and not on the internet or in-the-mail offers, are the Matilda producers favoring tourists and isolating locals from the lower priced tickets? Even Dodger Theatricals choice of the Times Square TKTS over the South Street Seaport and Brooklyn TKTS booths seems to yell at New Yorkers to stay away. Its true that locals can access the Times Square booth if they so choose, although it  tends to be considered by most as a dire tourist destination, avoided by locals in almost all circumstances. Also, If it wasn’t bad enough already, the huge pedestrian construction in Times Square right now is a further impediment to locals venturing there in search of those discount tickets. Therefore, Dodgers Matilda discount ticket strategy effectively prevents locals who cannot, or choose not to, pay full price from seeing the show.  In contrast, local New Yorkers actually keep the Broadway industry alive during the soft months, but Dodger Theatricals tendency to prefer the booth over online discounts or other forms of direct response,  may very well be ostracizing the regular ticket buying market, the very life blood of Broadway ticket sales.  Every Broadway show, however, eventually wears out its unattainability, and it can be expected that in the next year or two, New Yorkers will have easier access to affordable Matilda tickets as Matilda ticket sales are not showing anywhere the same steep sales yield curve as The Book Of Mormon did at the very beginning of their run. A show cannot survive on discounting at the TKTS booth alone, unless Dodgers are in fact out to prove that it can. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Dodgers have flown in the face of conventional wisdom.

Next month sees Disney’s Aladdin open and Matilda will soon face some stiff competition from Disney, who are the masters in this genre. The Dodgers do have a success on their hands in Matilda, just not the runaway success they had hoped for.