Bloomberg News

Chaplin, Porn Stars Drown Broadway in Sea of Red Ink

December 07, 2012

'Scandalous'

Carolee Carmello as the title character in "Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson." The new musical is co-written by Katie Lee Gifford. Photographer: Chris Bennioin/The Publicity Office via Bloomberg

Needy porn stars, a jailed radical, a silent film icon and an early evangelical celebrity are all casualties of Broadway’s fall season, along with about $30 million advanced from investors.

David Mamet’s “The Anarchist” -- starring Patti LuPone as a former activist and Debra Winger as her parole officer -- will close Dec. 16, two weeks after opening to dismal reviews. The show will likely lose its entire capitalization, which is about $2.6 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

“Scandalous” will close this weekend, at an estimated loss of at least $10 million. “Chaplin,” a $10 million musical about the Hollywood legend, closes Jan. 6.

“The Performers” ($3 million), about porn stars competing for Oscar-like awards, closed Nov. 18 after just seven regular performances.

Melinda and Robert Rich Jr. of Rich Products Corp., a closely held frozen foods manufacturer based in Buffalo, N.Y., earned their first lead producer credit on “Chaplin.”

‘So Disappointed’

“We are so disappointed to close this show,” Melinda “Mindy” Rich said in a release. John Caudwell, a billionaire U.K. phone titan, was also on the team. Rich declined further comment through a production spokeswoman, Susanne Tighe.

Billionaires Betsy DeVos and her husband, Richard, the former president of the direct-sales company Amway Corp., are the first-time producers of “Scandalous.” Kathie Lee Gifford co-wrote the musical, about the early 20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

Then there’s “Rebecca,” the $12 million show about spooky Manderley that was scheduled but never opened, despite a dubious assist from Mark Hotton, the former Oppenheimer & Co. broker who prosecutors said concocted fictional investors in order to pocket commissions. He’s now in jail in Queens. Lead producer Ben Sprecher has said he’s committed to bringing “Rebecca” to Broadway, but no plans have been announced.

While unloved by most critics, the flops were further hampered by Hurricane Sandy, producer Debbie Bisno said.

“It was a ricochet effect that sent the city to paralysis,” said Bisno, the lead producer of “Grace” with Paul Rudd. “People who were out of town were asking whether New York was up and running.”

Tourists purchased 63 percent of all Broadway tickets last season, up from 62 percent the season before, according to a demographic study out this week by the Broadway League. The study also found that Broadway theatergoers had an average annual household income of about $194,000.

It’s not all doom and gloom for producers in the Theater District. Two weeks after “Chaplin” closes, Barry Manilow is to begin a seventeen-performance engagement at the St. James Theatre, with tickets topping out at $708 from the primary online outlet, Telecharge.

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and Greg Evans and Craig Seligman on movies.

To contact the reporter of this story: Philip Boroff in New York at pboroff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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