The mantra over at Stan Lee Media Inc must be “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Certainly that is its legal strategy. Almost three months after a federal judge in Colorado granted Disney’s request for dismissal of SLMI’s multibillion-dollar Marvel superhero copyright suit, the company is back in Pennsylvania court this week claiming it owns the rights to Spider-Man. “In response to Disney’s Spider-Man claims and/or in response to [American Music Theater's] counterclaims and third-party claims, SLMI respectfully seeks a declaratory judgment … that Disney cannot bar SLMI from using or licensing the Spider-Man copyrights and trademarks by virtue of the fact that SLMI (not Disney) is the owner of various copyrights and trademarks regarding Spider-Man and has properly licensed the copyrights and trademarks to AMT,” says the third-party defendant paperwork (read it here) filed Tuesday.
The highest of high-profile musicals, whose beginnings were worthy of their own Broadway drama, is set to shut down after this year’s holiday season ends. The producers will make it official this week, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. In 2011, Julie Taymor’s replacement director Philip William McKinley told Deadline that Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, Broadway’s most expensive musical ever, would eventually make its money back. Not so, but considering its wild start — budget blow-outs, several on-set injuries and universally awful reviews all before its opening, and the project jettisoning Taymor and revamping the production afterward — it didn’t do too shabby. Last holiday season it was Broadway’s highest-grossing show, shattering the record for highest single-week gross and highest single-week attendance for any production in the history of the Great White Way. But even then estimates suggested Spider-Man needed to gross $1.2 million a week to cover costs, and as of late it had struggled to fill the massive Foxwoods theatre — it was at 75% capacity last week, according to Broadway League stats — and has been running below break-even for some time, the WSJ says. Still, with a run of 2 years-plus, the producers kept the musical from becoming one of the largest (and most public) flops ever.
Ambassador Theatre Group has acquired The Foxwoods Theatre from Live Nation Entertainment through its subsidiary, Lyric Theatre LLC. The Foxwoods is the largest theatre on Broadway with nearly 2,000 seats and currently is home to the hit rock musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark. The Foxwoods opened in 1997. The acquisition comes just months after ATG announced plans to expand overseas into key international territories including North America, Australia and the Asia Pacific Region. Berenson & Company LLC acted as the exclusive financial adviser to Ambassador Theatre Group. Recent Broadway productions within the ATG Group include The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, Exit The King starring Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon and John Doyle’s award-winning production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Erich Jungwirth, previously VP Theatrical for The Foxwoods, is remaining with the venue as COO for Lyric Theatre, LLC.
Exiled director Julie Taymor sued the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark in November 2011. The rock musical’s helmer, book co-writer and mask designer claimed her creative rights were violated and she was not compensated for her work after she was canned following epic and very public early production woes and poor early reviews. Producers filed a countersuit, alleging Taymor refused to fulfill her contractual obligations. The settlement announced today among Taymor, Glen Berger and producer 8 Legged Prods comes ahead of the scheduled May 27 trial date. The parties said the agreement resolves Taymor’s claims against 8 Legged in connection with her work on the book — now a Broadway box office hit — with respect to the current NY production and subsequent productions, meaning the shackles are off potential future tours. “I’m pleased to have reached an agreement and hope for the continued success of Spider-Man, both on Broadway and beyond”, Taymor said in the statement announcing the deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the Glee scribe who helped fix the troubled Broadway musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, has signed on to write a new line of the venerable Archie Comics. And he’s found a way to inject a topical sensibility into the adventures of Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead: flesh eating zombies! Aguirre-Sacasa will write Afterlife With Archie, which ponders a zombie apocalypse in Riverdale. This will run alongside the usual lines of Archie Comics, but if you ask me, it’s exactly what Riverdale needed.
Here’s how it happens: Jughead’s beloved pooch Hotdog is run over by Reggie in his roadster. He convinces Sabrina to hatch a spell to bring back the pooch, but when Hotdog bites Jughead, he soon craves flesh. Aguirre-Sacasa certainly knows horror: he scripted the upcoming remake of Carrie that stars Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore.
Aguirre-Sacasa said the new comic line “combines two of my great passions, Archie comics and horror comics. This series came out of conversations with Jon Goldwater, asking questions like ‘What if the Archie characters found themselves in a Stephen King novel like The Stand or a Sam Raimi movie like The Evil Dead? Could we pull that off, tonally? We’re really going for it. The first arc is called Escape from Riverdale. The second arc is called, brace yourself, Betty RIP.” He said the gore will be balanced with “elements that are quintessentially Archie.”
UPDATE, 2 PM: A Manhattan judge has set a January 7, 2013 trial date for Taymor’s suit against the show’s producers over her royalties as co-book writer of the Broadway musical. She claims she is owed at almost $3000 a week from April 2011 to the present. A similar settlement to yesterday’s director royalty spat is expected so plans can move forward on a national tour.
PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: A deal between the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark producer 8 Legged Productions ends all pending litigation. It gives the Broadway musical’s original director Julie Taymor full royalties. The entities have sued and countersued over the past couple of months over the musical, which famously had to shut down and retool and now is going great guns in New York. In the end it’s all about the money: the lawsuits were blocking plans to send the production on the road — and possibly Las Vegas — a critical element to backers recouping the $75 million budget and $1.2 million weekly running costs for the pricey superhero musical featuring music from U2′s Bono and the Edge. As part of the settlement, Taymor will be paid “from the inception of the run through its duration pursuant to the terms of her Director’s agreement, and to pay certain other amounts due to Ms. Taymor as a Collaborator, when the show’s New York production recoups”. She also will …
The musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is thriving on Broadway, but now there’s more negative attention. The producers of the musical have answered the original lawsuit filed by director and book co-writer Julie Taymor after she was fired. The producers have also launched their own counter suit that challenges her contention she should be paid full royalties despite being sacked. In particular, they are challenging her assertion filed in court last November that the revamped version of the musical infringes on her copyrights, and they are trying to thwart her attempt to bar them from taking the musical to other venues. Even though the musical is grossing well, its $1.2 million weekly running costs mean that recouping of the $75 million budget will happen as slow as molasses–unless the producers take a version of the show on the road, and perhaps to Las Vegas.
The producers charge that while Taymor was contracted to co-write and collaborate on the musical that has music from U2′s Bono and The Edge, she refuses “to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do.” The producers claim her stubbornness left them no choice but to replace her with Philip Wm. McKinley, whose vast background with Barnum & Bailey Circus helped curb the aerial mishaps, and a rewrite by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen …
Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark was the highest grossing show on Broadway over the holidays, shattering the record for the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history. It also recorded the highest single-week attendance by any show in Broadway history. Maybe Julie Taymor’s replacement director Philip William McKinley was onto something when he told Deadline last year that Broadway’s most expensive musical would eventually make its money back. Bashed in previews, the $75 million Spider-Man broke records over the New Year. Keep in mind that estimates are the show needs to gross $1.2 million a week to cover costs, so investors won’t be lighting cigars for a long time. But many felt last year this would go down as the biggest Broadway debacle ever, and so far that doesn’t seem to be the case.
New York, NY – SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark, Broadway’s most popular new show, rang in the New Year as the highest grossing show on Broadway, shattering the record for the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history. The total gross for the record-breaking week ending Sunday, January 1 was $2,941,790.20, besting the previous record of $2,228,235 set by Wicked in 2011. Playing to 17,375 audience members (100.02% capacity of The Foxwoods Theatre), SPIDER-MAN also enjoyed the highest single-week attendance by any show in Broadway history (playing a standard 9-show holiday schedule).
Back in March, the official release outlining the retooling of the massive and plagued Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark touted a new direction and a new director to replace Julie Taymor. And when the revamp finally made it to opening night in June after months of delays and bad press, Taymor was in the audience to take a bow. Apparently, the good will ended there: On Tuesday, the director filed a lawsuit in New York against Spider-Man‘s producers alleging that they haven’t compensated her for the work she did on the most expensive musical ever staged, and that they violated her creative rights. Her lawyer Charles Spada told the Associated Press that the non-payment comes “despite the fact that the show has consistently played to capacity or near-capacity houses since its first public performance in November 2010.” Taymor previously filed a claim that she never received royalties from the production, which last week grossed more than $1.4 million at the box office.
Last week, the Tony Awards committee announced that Taymor was eligible to be nominated in the Best Direction of a Musical category — an unlikely scenario considering all the negativity that’s come out of the $70 million production. On the opening-night Playbill, she carried the credit “Original Direction By” and was listed first among the scriptwriters.
No doubt that the theater, opera, and film director is both a genius and a handful. Julie Taymor was recently replaced as director of Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark after the accident-plagued musical became known as the most expensive production in the history of The Great White Way. She also has fought with almost every producer of her movies. The main problem has been that no one wants to give her the same free rein with her creativity that Disney did when she brought The Lion King to the stage in 1997 in a stunning production that continues to play around the world to this day. Her first feature film, Titus, was a startling reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, her Frida received six Oscar nominations, her Across the Universe starred U2 lead singer Bono (with whom she collaborated on Spider-Man), and her film version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest cast Helen Mirren in the role of the sorcerer Prospero usually played by a male actor. There’s probably an Oscar with Taymor’s name on it in the future, but only if ICM’s Jeff Berg can help her to function within Hollywood’s constraints.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark finally opened on Broadway on Tuesday night. There was a star-studded crowd that included Bill Clinton, a 10-minute standing ovation, and even deposed director Julie Taymor got up to take a bow. And, thank goodness, no actors fell from the rafters. A press release from the show’s reps reports that “critics and audiences cheer[ed] the opening,” and offered a few effusive blurbs from USA Today, MTV and NY1 News. Well, first of all, they weren’t reading the reviews I saw. In The New York Times (generally the review that helps a show fly or die), Ben Brantley compared its earlier incarnation to now as an “ascent from jaw-dropping badness to mere mediocrity,” but that isn’t a rave since he likened that earlier version to “watching the Hindenburg crash and burn.” The Wall Street Journal called the book “flabby and witless” and, as for the plot, “everything that happens is utterly familiar and utterly predictable.” To sum up, the WSJ offers that “$70 million and nearly nine years of effort, all squandered on a damp squib. … Never in the history of Broadway has so much been spent to so little effect.” The other Gotham papers basically said it was better than it was when Taymor was calling the shots, but essentially that its edge (not to be confused with U2′s The Edge) had been varnished away, leaving blandness and U2 songs that aren’t the catchiest that Bono and The Edge ever came up with.
EXCLUSIVE: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the playwright and comic book writer who was brought on to rewrite and hopefully save Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, has booked several projects to follow. On the TV side, he’ll become a co-producer and writer of the hit series Glee. And I’m told that he’s just been set by MGM and Screen Gems to write a remake of Carrie, the Stephen King thriller about the telekinetic teenager who gets pushed too far at the prom and wreaks havoc on her fellow high school students. King’s bestselling book was turned into the 1976 film that starred Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Amy Irving and Piper Laurie as the repressive mother.
For Aguirre-Sacasa, these diverse projects are right in his wheelhouse. On Carrie, he will write a version that is more faithful to the King book than the earlier movie, much the same as Joel and Ethan Coen went back to the Charles Portis novel True Grit to present a version that didn’t really feel like a remake. Aguirre-Sacasa has a relationship with the author, after writing the graphic novel version of King’s The Stand, King’s seminal apocalyptic novel.
What if one of the many incidents of actors getting injured on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had a tragic outcome? Law & Order: Criminal Intent will explore such a scenario in an upcoming episode clearly inspired by the debacle that the Spider-Man musical had become, TVLine reports. In the fictional version, the splashy musical is titled Icarus, from a high-strung director and a secretly bisexual rock-star composer. This is the latest episode of the Law & Order franchise featuring ripped-from-the-headlines stories this season. CI is also doing an episode starring Jay Mohr as a Charlie Sheen-like character, and Law & Order: LA is doing an episode inspired by the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen.
Broadway’s Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark has shut down for a three-week hiatus, a performance stoppage that had been expected. The show will implement all the changes from the original Julie Taymor-directed musical that were made by replacement director Philip William McKinley and playwright/comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. The producers hope these will solve many of the structural problems that got the musical drubbed by critics tiring of the endless opening-night postponements. Will three weeks be long enough to turn around a rough run low-lighted by safety violations and a roster of wounded actors? Here’s the official release:
New York, NY – Following its historic matinee performance on Sunday, April 17, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark embarks on a three-week hiatus for technical rehearsals before unveiling the new version of the mega musical on Thursday, May 12. The original staging of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark played its final performances to sold-out houses. The official opening night of the new SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is set for Tuesday, June 14th at the Foxwoods Theatre (213 West 42nd Street).
The revamping of SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark represents an unprecedented and historic moment on Broadway. The new version takes the best aspects of the original, adds great new songs by Bono and The Edge, tells the story from a different angle, and will offer an even more thrilling audience experience.
Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said, in a joint
Elton John hosted Saturday Night Live last night with help from several guest stars like Tom Hanks, who appeared in three skits, including one that featured John presiding over an emergency meeting of Knights of the Realm (aka knighted British celebrities) mulling ways to thwart a dragon attack on London. “When artists put their souls together they can accomplish anything,” says Andy Samberg as Bono. “Except a Spider-Man musical,” retorts John before crooning “Can you smell a bomb tonight” to the tune of one of the songs from his blockbuster musical The Lion King, which was directed by the same helmer that was recently fired by Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, Julie Taymor.
T.V. Carpio, who replaced Natalie Mendoza in the role of the villain Arachne, is the latest to be injured in a Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark preview performance. Mendoza left the show after being hit in the head by a rope, and Carpio suffered what The New York Times deemed a neck injury in a climactic battle scene with Peter Parker. This one was not a high-flying aerial sequence, at least. The latest in a litany of injuries happened while the show is being overhauled by incoming writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and director Philip William McKinley, in anticipation of a June 14 opening. The show has received state and federal violations after the accidents and was blasted by critics who reviewed despite the $65 million budget production pushing back its opening curtain again and again.
New York, NY – Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has rescheduled its opening night for Tuesday, June 14, 2011. In addition, to allow rehearsal time for the new changes being implemented in the show, performances from Tuesday, April 19th to Wednesday, May 11th have been cancelled with preview performances resuming on Thursday, May 12th. This amended schedule will allow the time necessary to execute the plan, which will include revisions to the script.
Broadway ‘Spider-Man’ Producers Announce Retooling And New Director, With Bogus Claim Julie Taymor Isn’t Out
New York, NY – Lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris announced today that SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has a newly expanded creative team in place. The team will be implementing a new plan to make significant and exciting revisions to the production. Opening night (previously set for March 15, 2011) has been rescheduled to an evening in early summer, 2011. This amended schedule will allow the time necessary to execute the plan, which will include revisions to the script.
The additional time commitment required by this new plan will make it impossible for director and co-book writer Julie Taymor to continue on in her day-to-day duties with the production. Philip William McKinley and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the creative team to help implement new staging and book rewrites, respectively. McKinley has vast experience directing technically complex productions on Broadway and beyond. Aguirre-Sacasa is both an acclaimed playwright and a noted writer of Spider-Man comic books. The expanded creative team also includes musical consultant Paul Bogaev (Tarzan, Bombay Dreams, Aida, Sunset Boulevard) and sound designer Peter Hylenski (Elf, Scottsboro Boys, Rock of Ages, Shrek), both of whom have already been working on improving the musical arrangements and sound quality (respectively) over the past few weeks, thereby vastly enhancing the audience experience.
Producers Cohl and Harris said, in a joint statement, “Julie Taymor is not leaving the creative team. Her vision has been at the heart of this production since its inception and will continue to be so. Julie’s previous
Broadway is rampant today with word that the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will finally get a much-needed overhaul. That’s expected to include the exit of Julie Taymor and a shutdown that will stretch several weeks to fix a book that led the $65 million musical to be pummeled by critics who reviewed it even though producers pushed back its opening date for the umpteenth time. Signs of an overhaul have been in the works for a while: Deadline told you first that the production was hiring playwright/Marvel Comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to put a little more Spidey lore into the production and Bono and The Edge have been tweaking their tunes. I’m told that an official announcement is expected by today or tomorrow. Both The New York Times and New York Post have mentioned Christopher Ashley as the likely replacement director. Shutting down the production is a tough break for a show which has been packing them in until recently, despite being in perpetual previews. They’ve managed to fix many of the bugs that led to injuries and safety violations while the show continued preview performances. But since Actors Equity doesn’t allow cast to rehearse for more than about five hours per week while they are performing, it has been impossible to do anything other than the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It will take down time to fix a book that has more than …