Finding Neverland, the passion project that marked Harvey Weinstein’s debut as the lead producer of a Broadway musical, will close on August 21. Weinstein and executive producer Victoria Parker informed the cast Thursday night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where the musical opened April 15, 2015 after a month of previews. It earned mixed reviews, was entirely snubbed at the Tony Awards and has had a roller-coaster run, often grossing over $1 million during holiday periods when family entertainments sell well, while slumping to the $600K range other weeks, barely covering its running costs.
“I said to them, You guys are unbelievable,” Weinstein told Deadline Thursday night after his meeting with the company. “I know it’s tough, however we’ll fit them into the tour and movie some way. We want Matthew and Kelsey,” he told the cast, referring to the show’s stars Matthew Morrison and Kelsey Grammer. “And I told them we want Helen Mirren and Bryan Cranston in the film as well.” Cranston is listed among the show’s producers. “You feel for all these people,” Weinstein added. “They have been with us from the beginning and I hope the cast will take us up on our offer.”
Based on the 2004 Miramax film about playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired him to write Peter Pan, the musical had a tortuous
“It’s not going to be Wicked, but it’s going to be profitable,” Weinstein says. “Finding Neverland is now a brand.”
route to Broadway that included a UK production that was almost entirely scrapped. With a new creative team led by director Diane Paulus, a revised version opened at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge MA, where Paulus is artistic director, before coming to New York.
The Broadway production was capitalized at $15.2 million, Weinstein said, and has returned about 60% of that to investors. Through last week, Finding Neverland had grossed $54.4 million on Broadway. Weinstein told Deadline that the show’s investors “will all get their money back on the road,” which is slated to launch in October at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in Western New York and play 50 cities over 77 weeks. “And they will make much more,” he said, from the London production, planned for a year from now.
“It’s not going to be Wicked,” Weinstein said, referring to the Oz musical that has become one of the biggest moneymakers in Broadway history, “but it’s going to be profitable.” Weinstein added that deals in place regarding the London production, along with his plans for the film, should ensure profit. “My first priority is the investors,” he said. “And Finding Neverland is now a brand. It becomes about monetizing the brand.”
Weinstein also expressed optimism about prospects for the film adaptation. “The audience for family movies is bigger than ever,” he said. And, unlike Broadway shows, “you don’t have to worry about Monday nights and Tuesday nights.”
The harshest lesson of Finding Neverland is that for every Hamilton or Book of Mormon — blockbusters that draw most of the ink and all of the long lines at the box office — there are four or five flops that fail to make their money back on Broadway. A few, if smartly reworked and produced, eventually recoup in the afterlife; with Weinstein’s marketing and deal-making savvy, Finding Neverland has a better shot than most. But it can take a lot of fairy dust to turn red ink to black.