Can "Spider-Man" recoup $65 mil?

By now everyone has heard about the less than fortuitous opening previews for “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” The mega-musical, directed by Julie Taymor with music by Bono and The Edge, has broken records (and the bank) with a $65 million initial budget, more than twice as big as the previous record holder, “Shrek the Musical.” “Spider-Man” is up against a monster task to turn a profit, and its extremely limited in that it can’t travel. Part of the reason it cost so much to produce is because the Foxwoods Theater on Broadway was built especially for “Spider-Man,” with specific height and construction requirements for its many flying sequences and stunts. It’s going to take a lot to make that $65 million back, but how much, exactly?

Catherine Rampell, of the NY Times blog Economix, tackled that question in her breakdown of production costs and projected sales and came up with this depressing answer: “Spider-Man” will have to sell at least 96% of the house for four years, and that’s just to break even. That means it will have to be a smash hit from the start and stay strong for years, more than four if anyone wants to see a profit. For her cost analysis, Rampell contacted various theatrical producers who estimated that “Spider-Man” has a running cost of $1 million per week. There are other items to factor in as well, like rights (35% of sales), credit charges, discounts and various fees (about 10%). If it does succeed in selling out at least 96% of the house, it will make a $313,489.80 weekly profit, and $65 million/$313,489.80 = 207.3 weeks, or about four years. Previews end this month with the official opening in January 2011.

See Rampell’s full breakdown.