In one month, Clint Eastwood’s big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys will open in movie theaters. With the original Broadway production having logged over 3500 performances, the production has been a strong performer in New York for almost a decade. However, should the producers and cast of the Broadway musical be concerned about the film adaptation taking away from the stage musical’s business? Will audiences will still travel to New York to see Jersey Boys on stage when they can see the original Broadway Frankie Valli, the Tony Award-winning John Lloyd Young, in the movie version?
Actually, based on the last several years of Broadway-to-film adaptations, the cast and crew of Broadway’s Jersey Boys shouldn’t worry. In fact, they could probably look forward to bigger houses because of the movie adaptation.
There have been seven other movies in the last dozen years that were based on Broadway musicals that opened while those musicals were currently on Broadway: Chicago (2002), The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Rent (2005), The Producers (2005), Hairspray (2007), Mamma Mia! (2007), and Rock of Ages (2012). To determine how the movie version affected the business of the Broadway production, I looked at the four weeks preceding the movie’s release, the week of the movie’s release, and the four weeks after. I then compared that to the same nine-week period of the year prior (all box office data came from The Broadway League).
In six of the seven instances, the Broadway musical’s grosses had increased compared to the previous year. Most impressively, Broadway’s Rent and Rock of Ages saw more than a 40% increase in average gross during the nine-week period surrounding the movie adaptations’ releases compared to the year prior. Broadway’s Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, and Hairspray saw more than a 16% increase in average gross, and Mamma Mia! had a smaller (but still significant) increase of nearly 8% in average gross compared to the year prior.
The only Broadway musical that did not receive a gross increase around the time that the movie adaptation of the musical was released was The Producers, which actually saw an average 10.39% decrease in gross in the nine weeks surrounding the December 2005 movie release compared to the same period the previous year. However, every production (including The Producers) saw a rise in the average price audiences paid per ticket, with Rock of Ages seeing an astounding average increase of $22.40 paid per ticket during its nine-week “movie period” compared to the year prior.
In fact, most of the productions had also increased their top ticket price from the year prior, with Chicago doubling its top ticket price from $90 to $180, Phantom doubling its top ticket price from $100 to $200, and Rent and Rock of Ages seeing smaller (but significant) top ticket price increases. Only Mamma Mia! had a top ticket decrease (from $251.25 to $200), while the top ticket prices of The Producers and Hairspray stayed the same (as of this week, the top ticket for Jersey Boys is $237, the same as this time last year). Because Broadway productions hope to make most of their money from the highest-price tickets, when grosses can be increased by selling more expensive tickets it’s great news for the productions.
Most importantly, the increases lasted beyond the initial nine-week “movie period.” It’s worth noting that of the eight longest-running musicals currently on Broadway (Phantom, Chicago, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Wicked, Jersey Boys, Rock of Ages, The Book of Mormon), only Wicked and The Book of Mormon do not have a movie adaptation since The Lion King was already based on a musical movie (though film adaptations of both Wicked and The Book of Mormon have been discussed). In some cases, tourists that had seen the movie adaptation of a particular show might choose to see the Broadway production of the same show because of their familiarity with the material. While The Producers closed in 2007 and Hairspray closed in 2009, both had runs of over 2500 performances and did not close until more than a year after their movie adaptations were released.
Because of this data, it’s obvious that movie adaptations do not threaten the long-term business of Broadway productions of the same musical and in most cases actually give tremendous boosts to ticket sales, if only in the short term. Considering this, it is not surprising that a revival of Les Miserables opened less than fifteen months after the popular film adaptation was released to capitalize on that popularity. It shouldn’t be surprising then if revivals of The Last Five Years and Into The Woods come to Broadway in the near future if the soon-to-be-released film adaptations prove to be popular.
Because Broadway’s Jersey Boys current grosses are down almost 20% over the past nine weeks compared to the same period last year, the cast and crew can hopefully look forward to a similar business bounce from the publicity of the movie adaptation that most of their fellow long-running Broadway musicals have experienced in the wake of their big screen adaptations. If it holds true, it would be yet another example of when Hollywood and Broadway made the most out of the same material.