The Broadway Budget — Breaking Down the Production Budget!
Every show has two primary budgets: a production budget and a weekly operating budget…
Anyone with an interest in theatre will probably have thrown around terms like “big-budget musical” at least once in their life, and anyone who’s borne witness to the staggering successes (few) and spectacular flops (many) on Broadway will wonder just how much money was made or lost.
From Hamilton to Honeymoon in Vegas, there’s no telling how the story will end — will you walk away with millions, or write off a huge loss? — but there’s always one common denominator: these shows all got up and running thanks to a tried-and-true financial template, more commonly known as a financial budget.
Every show has two primary working budgets: a production budget and a weekly operating budget.
A production budget encompasses everything needed to arrive at the first preview performance (usually from the stages of development), while a weekly operating budget covers the maintenance of the show on a week-by-week basis.
Also typically included in this packet is a recoupment schedule budget, which tries to anticipate how long it will take for the show to recoup (i.e. pay back its initial investment) based on how well the show sells.
If a show runs at 60% of gross sales potential every week, for example, it might recoup in 120 weeks, whereas after 20 continuous weeks of selling out at 100% of gross potential the show might break even.
A typical production budget for a Broadway musical will fall anywhere from $8–12 million, while a play might cost $3–6 million and a fairly lavish off-Broadway musical might capitalize at $2 million.
FX-heavy shows will fall higher on the spectrum (Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark reported a figure of $75 million), as well as musicals with a large cast and many musicians; conversely, a play with a very sparse unit set will cost much less. (This is just to get the show underway and rehearsing.)
In a typical production budget, you’re likely to see these the below categories, with some ballpark cost:
- Scenery (materials, hardware, paint, labor, rentals, hauling): $600,00
- Costumes (fabric, shoes, hair, wigs, rentals, jewelry, hats, accessories): $300,000
- Lighting (electric prep, color/gel, practicals): $150,000
- Sound (prep, permissions, music): $250,000
- Music (instruments, rentals, copying): $350,000
- Creative fees (director, choreographer, scenic designer, costume designer, lighting designer, sound designer, hair designer, music supervisor, music director, vocal arranger, casting director, dialect coach): $700,000
- Artistic salaries (actors, stage management, rehearsal musicians, music prep, orchestrations, benefits, union health/welfare, pensions): $2,000,000
- Management salaries (general manager, company manager): $350,000
- Production salaries (stage crew, wardrobe crew, production assistants, benefits, payroll taxes): $250,000
- Rehearsal expenses (audition space, rehearsal space, script copies): $300,000
- Advertising (print, TV, radio, outdoor, front-of-house, direct mail, internet, graphic design): $150,000
- Publicity (press agent, photographer, opening night party): $300,000
- Administrative (producer fee, general manager fee, legal services, accounting services, payroll services, insurance, transportation, box office): $1,000,000
- Advances (playwright, composer, lyricist, director, choreographer, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer): $1,500,000
- Bonds & deposits (to unions like Actors’ Equity, Local 1 [stagehands’], Local 764 [wardrobe], Local 802 [musicians], and ATPAM [managers and press agents]): $700,000
- Reserve (anywhere from 10–15% of the total production budget that will be not spent; reserved as a safeguard against weekly losses after the show opens): $1,000,000
These estimates give us a show that capitalizes somewhere around $10 million, which — as I mentioned earlier — is a pretty ordinary figure for Broadway production budgets.
To pay back the initial investment to investors, the managers of the show will try to keep the weekly running costs as low as possible while maximizing ticket sales, a tricky bit that fails far more often than it succeeds — Olivia Rubino-Finn.
By Pete Moore — Seamless Entertainment.