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Broadway revenue, attendance set records

| Sunday, June 10, 2001

Say what you will about the obscenity of Broadway's top tickets creeping up incrementally from $85 to $90 to $100 (for only 'The Producers' so far).

The just-concluded 2000-01 season was the 10th consecutive season to break box-office records.

Broadway houses raked in $665,421,002, which was 10.4 percent higher than the 1999-2000 season.

You might well wonder whether, as with movies, the gross was higher only because there were more theaters, more seats, more hype and higher prices.

But no. Even the attendance of 11,937,962 was five percent higher than ever before.

How can this be when only two shows, the 4-year-old 'The Lion King' and the recently installed 'The Producers,' are playing to standing-room-only at every performance•

Especially with other new shows folding like there's no tomorrow• (And for them, there isn't.)

Remember that blockbusters from previous seasons shore up the figures tremendously, even though they no longer sell out on week nights. A lot of long-running hits such as 'Les Miserables' (1987), 'Phantom of the Opera' (1988), 'Beauty and the Beast' (1994), 'Rent' (1996), 'Chicago' (1996), 'Aida' (2000) and 'Contact' (2000), as well as the newer 'The Full Monty,' score regularly in the 80 to 99 percent range of capacity.

BROADWAY CLOSINGS

There are three primary times for struggling Broadway productions to close:

  • The Sunday following New Year's, which is after the lucrative Christmas-to-New Year's period and before the frosty dog days of January and February.

  • The first May Sunday after the Tony Award nominations are announced, which is when the shows with few or no nominations often quit.

  • The first June Sunday after the Tony Awards, when the shows that needed key wins failed to get them.

    Three shows that failed to collect Tonys last Sunday were quick to announce closings for today:

  • 'A Class Act,' an ingenuous little musical biography of the late composer-lyricist Edward Kleban, after 30 previews and 105 performances on Broadway and an earlier seven-week off-Broadway run. The expensive gamble to move to a Broadway house led to five nominations and Broadway stature but undoubtedly a shorter New York shelf life.

  • 'Bells Are Ringing,' the first major revival of the hit '50s musical, after 35 previews and 69 performances. The material was dated in the wrong ways, and Faith Prince's efforts in the leading role weren't enough to overcome the absence of the late Judy Holliday, for whom the original production had been tailored for a snug fit.

  • 'Jane Eyre,' after 36 previews and 210 performances, including week-to-week reprieves. Fiercely admired by some, it arrived too late in a two-decade cycle of highly narrative dramatic musicals.

    Additionally:

  • 'Follies,' an all-star revival that included Blythe Danner and Treat Williams, will close July 14 as originally scheduled. It had, for a time, been accepting bookings through Sept. 30, but even though the show is turning a profit, business doesn't warrant the extra 11 weeks, which would have been on pricier union contracts.

    I was enthralled, but the consensus is that it wasn't the dream 'Follies' revival that all Broadway had been awaiting for a quarter of a century.

    It will have played 31 previews and 116 performances.

  • 'Fosse,' a hit, will wrap Sept. 1 after 22 previews and 1,108 performances.

    BROOKS IN ELITE COMPANY

    The three Tonys won by Mel Brooks, as co-producer, composer-lyricist and co-book writer of 'The Producers,' makes him the first male ever to win a Tony, an Oscar (for the 1968 screenplay of 'The Producers'), a Grammy (for 'The 200-Year-Old Man in the Year 2000') and an Emmy (for his guest appearance on 'Mad About You').

    The only other two performers who have collected all four awards are Rita Moreno and the late Helen Hayes, making it an eclectic trio of honorees.

    Liza Minnelli has everything but a Grammy.

    NEW RECORD, SAME HOUSE

    Lightning struck twice for Broadway's St. James Theatre.

    Not only is its current tenant 'The Producers,' which just won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards and promises to run for years, but the St. James housed the entire 2,844-performance, seven-year run of the previous Tony champ, 'Hello, Dolly.'


    ONE SIGNATURE BEATS ANOTHER

    The Internet Movie Database says that Anthony Quinn, who died last Sunday at age 86, appeared opposite more Academy Award-winning performers than anyone else: 28 Oscar-winning actors and 18 Oscar-winning actresses.

    Bear in mind, in most cases he wasn't in the pictures they won for.

    He accomplished this partly by making so many films in the '40s and '50s when salaries were much lower, and efficient, respected character actors like Quinn cranked out supporting roles in several movies a year.

    When Quinn won his first Oscar, for 'Viva Zapata' (1952), a lot of the betting was on newcomer Richard Burton to win for 'My Cousin Rachel,' which was to become one of Burton's forgotten early performances.

    Quinn's win for 'Lust for Life' (1956) was more surprising because he'd won so recently, and his role as Paul Gauguin lasted just nine minutes.

    The two most often predicted to win that year were front-runner Robert Stack for 'Written on the Wind' and sentimental favorite Mickey Rooney for 'The Bold and the Brave,' which is one of the few Oscar contenders that has never appeared on video or cable.

    Quinn's greatest performances were in 'Requiem for a Heavyweight' (1962), a box-office flop that the studio neglected to promote at awards time, and his signature role as the life force in 'Zorba the Greek.'

    He was nominated for 'Zorba' but on one of the most competitive ballots of all time, against Peter Sellers' triple role in 'Dr. Strangelove,' Burton and Peter O'Toole in 'Becket' and the eventual winner, Rex Harrison in his signature role in 'My Fair Lady.'

    GALLERY'S LONG SHOTS

    Remember those Shooting Gallery movies, the cycles of six foreign and independent films that play for 12 weeks total at Loews Waterfront and 13 other theaters across the country•

    Few seem to do well enough to justify the continuation of the semi-annual series.

    'The Day I Became a Woman' was by far the most financially successful of the recent batch, followed at a distance by 'When Brendan Met Trudy' and 'The Last Resort.'

    The other three, in descending order of revenue, did badly: 'Eureka,' 'Too Much Sleep' and 'The Low Down.'

    'SUGAR' IS 'HOT' AGAIN

    With an eye toward Broadway, Tony Curtis will begin a tour of 'the musical 'Some Like It Hot' in July 2002 in Las Vegas.

    He'll be playing the lecherous millionaire Osgood Fielding III, the role played by Joe E. Brown in Billy Wilder's 1959 movie.

    Curtis is 76 and will have reached 77 by the time the show finally premieres.

    'Some Like It Hot' isn't a new musical. It was done on Broadway in 1972-73 under the title 'Sugar' with Robert Morse, Tony Roberts, Elaine Joyce and Cyril Ritchard and lasted 505 performances - a respectable run unless you consider the tremendous popularity of the movie on which it was based.

    It had very little afterlife considering its pedigree (composer Jule Styne, book writer Peter Stone, director Gower Champion, a name cast).

    The title 'Sugar' was used back then because the rights to use 'Some Like It Hot' were not successfully negotiated.

    I prefer at least a slight distinction be made between the titles of musical and non-musical versions anyway, as with 'Mame' and 'Auntie Mame.'

    A NOT SO 'PERFECT CRIME'

    'A Perfect Crime' recently celebrated its 15th year off-Broadway.

    No non-musical has ever run nearly so long in New York.

    It's in its third home, the 165-seat Duffy Theatre, which had been a strip joint called Paris Burlesque.

    One of its performers, Catherine Russell, has appeared in all but four of its 5800-plus-change performances.

    I've seen 'A Perfect Crime' not only in New York but at local playhouses, and I can assure you that only one thing accounts for it lasting beyond opening night: the best title a bad play ever had.

    MORE HITCHCOCK

    Despite the fact that remaking masterpieces if fraught with peril, and remaking Alfred Hitchcock movies is particularly risky (ask Gus Van Sant about 'Psycho'), screenwriter Michael Browning ('Six Days, Seven Nights') has done a new adaptation of Frances Iles' 'Before the Fact,' which Hitchcock filmed in 1941 as 'Suspicion.'

    Dimension is to distribute it eventually.

    It will be interesting to see which ending Browning uses. Hitchcock had planned to use the novel's ending, but the casting of Cary Grant led to a decision to alter it 180 degrees. The change, though, meant that much of the plot no longer made as much sense.

    Ed Blank is the Tribune-Review's film and Broadway critic. He can be reached at (412) 854-5555 or 'mailto:eblank@tribweb.com'> eblank@tribweb.com .

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