Tax season may be stressful, but most Americans’ tax woes are dwarfed by the financial headache brought about producing Broadway shows. Substantial amounts of money are poured into productions with no guarantee of a return on investment.
Here are some of the biggest gambles producers took when mounting shows—and not all of them paid off.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of green went into Wicked. Producers spent a whopping $16.9 million to create the world of Broadway’s favorite witches. Luckily for producers, the show was more than popular. The show recouped its investment in just a little over a year and continues to bring in packed houses on the Great White Way.
As if dishes weren’t expensive enough. Disney shelled out a pretty penny for its first endeavor on Broadway, with producers investing $17.4 million. With special effects, intricate set changes, and elaborate production numbers, their investment showed. The musical was a hit, ran for over a decade, and producers reaped the benefits of lucrative returns.
Mr. Krabs would have surely balked had he been asked to fork over the $20 million dollars it reportedly cost to bring Bikini Bottom to Broadway. It’s not cheap to create an underwater illusion, but judging by its generally favorable reviews, Spongebob Squarepants pulled it off. Unfortunately, the production blew its last bubble in September, much to the chagrin of producers.
Another famous Disney production, The Lion King took Broadway by storm when it dazzled audiences with intricate puppetry and show stopping numbers in 1997, but that didn’t come cheap. Weighing in at a whopping $27.5 million, the production is the third most expensive musical to grace Broadway. It was a critical smash and has continued to wow audiences for over two decades, ensuring a lion’s share of profits for some lucky investors.
The Broadway iteration of the popular Dreamworks film cost $27.6 million. Though it opened to moderately good reviews, it wasn’t easy being green. After 441 performances, Shrek: The Musical went back to the swamp without a Happily Ever After for its producers.
The production featuring the most famous puppet since Avenue Q cost investors a total of $35 million. The stunning visuals and it’s 2,000 pound star weren’t enough to save it from lukewarm to scathing reviews. Nonetheless, the chance of seeing the 20-foot-puppet in person has kept audiences coming to the Broadway Theatre.
From lawsuits to injuries, the saga of Spider Man: Turn off the Dark eclipsed the show itself, despite being the most expensive musical ever produced on Broadway at $79 million. Even Julie Taymor’s direction coupled with a score by Bono wasn’t enough to save the doomed production. It closed after three years, with producers incurring a $60 million loss.
Art isn't easy.