How Much Does It Cost To Mount a Broadway Musical?

We are saturated daily in the media about how many millions of dollars Hollywood movies cost to make. But of course, theatre is a very different beast, isn’t it? Or is it?

In the past two decades, in particular, the public has asked for a more spectacular, visual theatre experience when going to see musicals. Like major motion pictures, Broadway musicals also cost millions of dollars to mount, usually requiring a consortium of investors willing to risk their cash in order to raise the necessary funds to allow a show to see the light of day.

So, if you’ve ever wondered just how much it costs to mount a Broadway musical these days, read on! Here’s last week’s top ten grossing Broadway shows as examples.

Broadway’s No.1 musical, Wicked, opened in October 2003 and was a $14 million investment. It took just 14 months to recoup its initial costs, as by December 2004 the show had made it all back at the box office. In a seminar with one of Wicked’s company managers on a visit to Broadway in March last year, I was told Wicked costs a massive $800,000 a week to run on Broadway. For most of its five year run, Wicked has grossed between $1.2 and $1.3 million each week at the Gershwin Theatre. Last week Wicked grossed $1.8 million. So the initial investment can be risky and the show can be very expensive to maintain, but if the musical is a runaway success, the profits are high, also.

Wicked ain’t going anywhere soon. When I asked how long they intend to run Wicked on Broadway, citing 10 years as a logical example, I was thrown back a reply of 15 to 20 years is more like it. So, if you hadn’t worked it out already, Wicked is now your new Phantom.

It seems Disney have been keeping their cards close to their chest as no one really knows exactly how many millions Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid cost to put on the Broadway stage? Mary Poppins opened in November 2006 and whatever it did cost to put on Broadway, we know one thing for sure: it recouped its costs exactly 12 months later. As for The Little Mermaid, well it just celebrated its one year anniversary, grossing over $60 million and making it the most successful new musical on Broadway in 2008.

Meanwhile, the old Disney stayer, The Lion King, costing who knows what to mount on Broadway initially (edit: now confirmed at $20 million), is now in its 12th year and this week grossed over $1.5 million at the box office.

The Latino-based musical In The Heights began life Off Broadway in 2007 on an investment of $2.5 million. The show then moved to Broadway at a cost of $10 million, last year winning the Tony Award for Best Musical. The show’s producers have just announced In The Heights has recouped its entire Broadway investment 11 months after starting previews last February at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Jersey Boys, the musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, reportedly cost $8 million to bring to Broadway in November 2005. The show apparently made its money back as quickly as the following June, shortly after it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Jersey Boys has consistently grossed over a million dollars each week, since.

Another musical showcasing a music back catalogue, Mamma  Mia!, arrived on Broadway in 2001, two years after its London opening. Regardless of mixed reviews, the feelgood show with ABBA songs guaranteed a rollicking good time, resulting in its Broadway company recouping their $10 million investment in just 28 weeks!

The Broadway production of Billy Elliot, which opened in November last year, apparently cost $20 million to stage. Meanwhile the recently opened Shrek The Musical, reportedly cost $25 million, taking the cost of mounting a Broadway musical to a whole new level.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera cost $12 million to bring to Broadway in 1988. Three years ago, The Phantom surpassed Cats to be the longest running musical in the history of Broadway. But it is also the highest grossing musical ever on Broadway, having brought in more that $690 million. The show’s success internationally is truly phenomenal, playing to more than 80 million people in 124 cities and grossing over $5 billion. That figure makes The Phantom of the Opera the most successful enetertainment venture of all time.

Edit: In recent years, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark had an escalating budget in development that continued to spiral out of control. Rumour was the money stopped at around the $30 million mark and U2’s Bono and The Edge (whose musical score is at the heart of the show) chipped in considerable funds of their own just so the musical could see the light of day. By the time the show eventually opened after many false starts and the longest run of previews ever seen on Broadway, the budget had hit $60 million. Before things had settled, the well-publicised budget had reached somewhere between $65 and $70 million, easily making Spider-Man the most expensive stage show in history.

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6 Responses

  1. Micoke says:

    Hello all,

    Have arrived home after spending 4 weeks in the US. Spend a week in NYC and was able to catch a couple of shows. However Broadway was a very different place than when I visited 3 years ago. With the financial slowdown, some theatres were dark, with close to thirty shows closing over the month of January.

    I was able to see Marry Poppins and Spring Awakening (which is also closing this month).

    Mary Poppins has all the Disney magic you would expect. Some great special effects, all your favorite songs, massive sets PLUS a twist in the storyline. I really enjoyed how the character of Bert become the narrator using the song Chim Chim Cher-ee as the vehicle to move the story along. A great show for the whole family. Speaking to a couple of people in the queue for half price tix, they said The Little Mermaid is even better.

    Spring Awakening is exactly how it was been described on this website, Rent for the New Age. I did not know ANYTHING about the show going into the theatre, however was pleasantly surprised. The music was fantastic, the plot was confronting with a strong underlying message. When you first walk into the theatre you see the set, which is fairly simple, however through the show it comes alive with great lighting effects and use of simple props. The cast is a traditional ensemble cast, with many actors changing characters. I won’t say much more incase we see it in Melbourne, however it was great to see something NEW.
    One criticism/question for those that have seen it. Why did actors for some songs use handheld microphones and not for others? I attempted to work out if it symbolized something, however was unable to come up with any theories. In the end I found it annoying.

    Overall a great experience and I am looking forward to seeing Avenue q and Jersey Boys this year.

  1. October 22, 2010

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  2. December 24, 2010

    […] to make back that kind of overhead.  Wicked allegedly earned over one million dollars per week, re-couping its initial $14 million in 14 weeks.  Supposing that prices and wages and costs rise the same amount (not necessarily so but we have […]

  3. March 1, 2011

    […] they’re not meant to be discouraging, but rather a reality check of sorts. Take heart, musicals are being made at all of these price points, everyday (and at every dollar amount in […]

  4. May 4, 2014

    […] been tempted to question the need to spend $20,000 a piece on black dresses. With a $14 million initial investment and a $800,000 nut (weekly operating budget) the risks for Wicked pre-launch were enormous. In […]

  5. May 5, 2014

    […] been tempted to question the need to spend $20,000 a piece on black dresses. With a $14 million initial investment and a $800,000 nut (weekly operating budget) the risks for Wicked pre-launch were enormous. In […]

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