UPDATE, 1:30 PM with more information throughout: Paramour, the first show developed by the Montreal-based behemoth Cirque du Soleil specifically for Broadway, will shutter April 16 at the Lyric Theatre, exactly a year after it began previews. The theater then will undergo renovations, according to the announcement Thursday by the Ambassador Theatre Group, which took over the house in May 2013.
The announcement was one of the more curious of this early Broadway season. Cirque du Soleil Theatricals CEO Scott Zeiger said he is “in discussions with several theater owners in New York and abroad who are interested in welcoming this unique production, including Stage Entertainment for a production in Germany in 2018.”
“We’re not closing because business is bad,” Zeiger said in an interview with Deadline. “They have a timeline for the work they want to do, and made the request. We had a friendly negotiation, and they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.” Asked if the offer included relocation to another ATG house in the U.S. or abroad, Zeiger said no.
“This is the first time in my career that I’ve been asked to move a successful production,” Zeiger told Deadline. “We believe in this property and will continue to nurture it.”
Reportedly developed at a cost of $25 million, Paramour has been underperforming at the Lyric, one of Broadway’s two biggest houses. Last summer, it shut down for several days to incorporate changes to improve the story. But last week, when many shows benefited from the beginning of the Thanksgiving-through-New Year’s holiday season, Paramour grossed just over $1 million, barely reaching 60 percent of its potential.
Close watchers of the Lyric box office could see that the show, with a large cast and orchestra and significant backstage expenses, was showing no signs of building an audience or gaining on its weekly running costs. Most weeks, it took in between $800K and $900k, or half its gross potential of $1.8 million.
Zeiger said that most of the business for Paramour followed an industry-wide trend that sees ticket lower advance sales for all but the biggest blockbusters. The advance for Paramour is $4 million, he said, all but $100K of it between now and mid-April.
Ambassador, which announced a new executive lineup earlier this week, is in the midst of renovating its second Gotham venue, the Hudson Theatre, which recently lost its first tenant when a spring 2017 revival of Lanford Wilson’s Burn This! was postponed to accommodate its star, Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Lyric is an awkward house with an odd history: It was the brainchild of Toronto-based impresario Garth Drabinsky, who demolished two derelict Times Square theaters, the Lyric and the Apollo, and forged a single venue out of them. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts, as it was initially called through a corporate sponsorship, opened in January, 1998 with Ragtime. After Drabinsky’s Livent went bankrupt, the theater, already regarded as an un-Broadway like barn more typical of touring houses, was renovated and renamed the Hilton, where Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ran, and later Young Frankenstein. It later became the Foxwoods Theatre. Perhaps its most notorious tenant was Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, a flop that cost over $75 million.
“We will be sad to part with Cirque du Soleil at the end of April 2017, by which time they will have completed a very successful year on Broadway,” said Mark Cornell, CEO of Ambassador Theatre Group. “The fact that Cirque du Soleil chose to debut its first Broadway show – a great achievement – at The Lyric, was an honor for us at ATG.”