‘The Realistic Joneses’ Opens on Broadway

It’s not an easy time for a new play to thrive on Broadway.  The Realistic Joneses, which opened on April 6, 2014 to largely positive reviews, is still struggling to stay afloat at the box office.  This is the Broadway debut for playwright Will Eno, who is known for his less accessible but equally quirky Off-Broadway works such as Thom Pain (based on nothing) and Middletown.  The play premiered in May 2012 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  Both the regional and Broadway productions are directed by Sam Gold, whose remarkable career rise has confirmed him as the go-to director for adventurous new plays, especially those that feature a casual, realistic writing style.  Of the four actors in the cast, only one has remained for the transfer – Tracy Letts, who is the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of August: Osage County as well as the Tony Award winning actor from last year’s revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The Realistic Joneses on Broadway

The other three roles are played by Toni Collette, who has been on Broadway once before in The Wild Party, Michael C. Hall, who has played Broadway musical leads in both Cabaret and Chicago, and Marisa Tomei, who has previously appeared in three Broadway plays: Top Girls, Salome, and Wait Until Dark.  Though all three actors are much better known for their film work, these names are by no means box office gold of the likes of Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe, or James Franco, who are presently competing for audience attention on Broadway, also in straight plays.  Whereas musicals can often survive on Broadway without Hollywood stars, especially if they feature a familiar title, plays rarely enter the greater national consciousness without a special boost.

Although The New York Times critic Charles Isherwood gave the play an unqualified rave, marking it as a Critics’ Pick, the box office was actually worse for this past week than the one preceding it.  For the week ending in April 6, 2014, gross ticket sales were $410,334, down $51,902 from the previous week.  However, it must be noted that the week leading up to a show’s opening includes numerous performances designated as “press performances,” for which complimentary tickets are offered to critics from a wide array of publications.  This would partly explain the lower gross, especially in light of the fact that the average ticket price also went down that week to $67.88 from $82.62 the week before.

The play is scheduled to run until July 6, 2014.  Its producers, Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, often take gambles with shows that are not guaranteed slam dunks.  In this same season, they also are producing All the Way, a new play but with the box office support of its star Bryan Cranston, The Bridges of Madison County, a musical with a familiar title that is struggling to stay alive, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, which features Broadway favorite Audra McDonald as the timeless favorite Billie Holiday.  Though The Realistic Joneses may be this producing team’s most risky show on Broadway right now, they have made a habit of mounting shows by recognized playwrights, which may or may not have stars.  In any case, it is to their credit that they manage to support new writing in a climate where few dare to take such ventures, seeking to overcome the bias against plays without megastars.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 3/23/2014

This weeks notable movements on Broadway are:

Three shows began previews on Broadway this week.  Act One played 4 performances at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre, with an average paid admission of $57.67 per ticket, and an average audience capacity of 61.07%.  Another not-for-profit theatre company was significantly more successful with their Broadway debut this week: the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Cabaret had an average paid admission of $94.96 and an average capacity of 101.7%, more than selling out their house due to premium sales in its three first performances.  The third premiere this week is also off to a strong start: Of Mice and Men, benefitting from a star studded cast including James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, and Leighton Meester, attracted an average paid admission of $111.95, and filled its house to an average 95.6% capacity over the six performances of its first week.  Overall, these figures exemplify how household name actors and familiar show titles can succeed in attracting a full audience even before reviews are published.

A Raisin in the Sun made it into the millionaire’s club this week, a real accomplishment for a straight play on Broadway, especially so early on in its run.  With an average paid admission of $132.31 and a clean 100.00% audience capacity, this revival of the Lorraine Hansberry classic profited from the megastar status of its lead, Denzel Washington.  This is the third week in which this production has been running, but it is the first 8-performance week.  As such, it has done equally well this week compared to the prior week, which only had 7 performances.

Another straight play in previews is The Realistic Joneses, which transferred to Broadway after an acclaimed run last year at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.  Though Will Eno’s play features famous actors including Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei, their star power is significantly lower than that of Denzel Washington.  As such, in its first 8-performance week, the show played to only 81.38% average capacity, with an average ticket price of $76.34.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending March 23, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis 3-23-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $453,663 5,880 81.04% $77.15
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,107,163 8,368 100.00% $132.31
ACT ONE $152,704 2,648 61.07% $57.67
AFTER MIDNIGHT $714,663 7,555 91.16% $94.59
ALADDIN $937,099 13,782 100.16% $67.99
ALL THE WAY $881,336 8,646 76.00% $101.94
BEAUTIFUL $832,504 6,973 84.95% $119.39
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $782,289 10,508 92.09% $74.45
CABARET $255,813 2,694 101.70% $94.96
CHICAGO $541,652 6,944 80.37% $78.00
CINDERELLA $902,579 11,245 80.28% $80.26
IF/THEN $1,008,303 9,854 96.61% $102.32
JERSEY BOYS $669,085 7,169 72.97% $93.33
KINKY BOOTS $1,451,463 11,101 97.45% $130.75
LES MISÉRABLES $1,031,869 10,931 97.11% $94.40
MAMMA MIA! $573,443 6,915 74.13% $82.93
MATILDA $1,163,417 11,519 100.55% $101.00
MOTHERS AND SONS $248,821 4,909 76.51% $50.69
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,078,097 10,359 85.92% $104.07
NEWSIES $795,046 9,384 98.99% $84.72
NO MAN’S LAND/WAITING FOR GODOT $647,289 7,389 86.08% $87.60
OF MICE AND MEN $688,832 6,153 95.57% $111.95
ONCE $563,021 6,201 73.19% $90.80
PIPPIN $730,892 7,342 92.70% $99.55
ROCK OF AGES $366,648 4,415 94.66% $83.05
ROCKY $799,879 9,746 79.52% $82.07
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,639,847 8,752 102.63% $187.37
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $385,394 5,329 65.37% $72.32
THE LION KING $1,828,835 13,575 99.82% $134.72
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $954,196 11,368 88.54% $83.94
THE REALISTIC JONESES $433,391 5,677 81.38% $76.34
WICKED $1,874,352 15,318 99.31% $122.36
Totals: $26,493,581 268,649 87.74% $95.47