After only 22 previews and 16 regular performances, The Velocity of Autumn has shuttered its doors at the Booth Theatre. A new play by Eric Coble and directed by Molly Smith, this two-hander starred Oscar winner Estelle Parsons and Tony winner Stephen Spinella. It is the story of an elderly woman who threatens to blow herself up in her apartment when her children consider moving her out to a nursing home. Though the play received mixed reviews and a Tony nomination for Estelle Parsons in the category of Best Actress in a Play, this was not enough to lure ticket buyers to the box office.
With a budget of $2.5 million, this play will surely incur a financial loss for its investors. In its less than five weeks of performances, the highest it grossed was in its first week, with a total of $135,307 for seven performances. Following that first week of previews, the show’s numbers dwindled at three consecutive weeks of $100,056, $94,400, and $84,521, respectively. In its final week of eight performances, the show saw a slight increase in sales, grossing $130,333 after announcing closing. The production struggled to spread word of mouth through offering complimentary tickets on various ticket sites, which only brought down the average ticket price to an extraordinary low. In the five weeks of its run, this average ticket price was $39.96, $32.55, $23.54, $20.77, and $27.43, respectively.
This goes to show that it is increasingly difficult to make a straight play on Broadway profitable, especially without name recognition for the show’s title and without A-list Hollywood stars in the cast. Although Estelle Parsons is a well-known actress whose long career includes such films as 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde (for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), as well as a role on television’s Roseanne, she is not a star for whom the public would flock to the box office. Stephen Spinella, though a Tony winner, is hardly a household name. Though producers would be more inclined to take a risk on a low-cost show with a small cast such as this one, it was still capitalized at $2.5 million, which is no chump change.
This is the first Broadway credit for the lead producers, Larry Kaye and HOP Theatricals. Though its producing team also includes Broadway regulars such as Van Dean of The Broadway Consortium, their lack of experience is palpable from the fate of this attempt. Furthermore, though Van Dean has raised money for several shows in the last handful of years, many have incurred financial losses and closed early, including Big Fish, Bonnie and Clyde, Chinglish, and Catch Me If You Can. In order to keep the loyalty of their investors, these producers will need to find a hit among the risks they take. Unfortunately, The Velocity of Autumn has proved to be another loss.