Safety Violations! Bad Reviews! SNL! Boffo Box Office! It’s Your SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK Update!

Last week was quite a week for Julie Taymor and Bono and The Edge's Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark. You could almost say that it was a week that swung wildly from one extreme to another. You could say that if you were a fan of groan-inducing puns which I am certainly not…

Anyway, What happened last week with Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark?

Safety Violations!

The New York State Department of Labor issued two safety violations to the producers of the show. These violations, which were not made public but were leaked to the press, were reportedly related to the injuries sustained by the cast when the preview shows began.

Bad Reviews!

Many major media outlets began running official reviews of Spider-Man last week, deciding the long-standing tradition of waiting for the show to "officially" open could be put aside as the show sold full priced tickets to the general public. What did the critics have to say?

Spider-Man” is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst." – The New York Times

(The New York Times review also noted that the only time the audience seemed to respond to the show was when a technical difficulty finally occured. They applauded wildly when an actor got stuck in his harness.)

"But mostly, Spider-Man is chaotic, dull and a little silly. And there is nothing half as catchy as the 1967 ABC cartoon theme song." – The Hollywood Reporter

"Incoherence isn’t much fun to sit through." – The Los Angeles Times

"Story, which follows four nerdy teenagers as they devise the adventures of a teenaged superhero from Queens, is sketchy and ill-formed. Some of the dialogue, by Taymor and Glen Berger, seems ad-libbed on the spot and there are a couple of big holes in the story. " – Variety

"If you're going to spend $65 million and not end up with the best musical of all time, I suppose there's a perverse distinction in being one of the worst." – The Washington Post

Saturday Night Live Skewering!

Boffo Box Office!

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark grossed $1,330,014 last week, which was an increase of nearly 3% over the week before and which put Spider-Man as the second highest grossing show on Broadway just behind Wicked. The $65 million production has grossed upwards of $12.5 million in ticket sales since preview shows began 10 weeks ago. This show is living proof that there's no such thing as bad publicity. (Until the rubbernecking appeal wears off, I reckon.)

I can't wait to check out the show, myself. The next official opening date for Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark is March 15.


  1. As a guy working in the NY theatre community I’ve been one of the biggest defenders of this production on these boards… but aside from the reviews, for months people I know and trust in the industry who have seen this have all said the same thing: technical issues in previews are completely forgivable, but the book is an ungodly mess, Act 2 is literally incoherent, the Arachne character they’ve created at the center of it all is laughable, and the score is mediocre on its best day.

    Also, the non-comics people I know who’ve seen it are completely baffled by some of the comics-related choices and things they attempt to shoehorn in there.  Mary Jane calls Peter “Tiger” near the end and it comes out of nowhere, character-wise, and I’ve essentially heard more than once, “What the hell is a Carnage?”

    But if you like your Broadway disasters big, expensive, and dangerous, get yourself to the Foxwoods theatre NOW!  

  2. Oh, and I’ve e-mailed the iFanboy guys a few times pointing out the Box Office, because it’s worth pointing out.  I’ll be very interested to see when, exactly, those numbers drop off, because right now the producers are raking it in and couldn’t care less about the reviews.  In fact, they probably prefer being panned to having moderately good reviews.  Hell, by now being panned might have been better for them than raves.  You’ve never heard such buzz about a show.  It’s a must-see catastrophe.

  3. Taymor will be remembered fondly for many things … “Turn Off the Dark” won’t be one of them …

  4. @RaceMcCloud: What I find interesting is that these purportedly wonderful numbers are gross receipts. I haven’t seen any mention of whether the show is running in the black. With such high operating costs, the show has only a very thin margin before a drop in the gross becomes a financial disaster.

  5. Well, Spider-man’s understudy apparently attended last night’s taping of The Daily Show as an audience member (Stewart mentioned it at the top of the show, and made the obligatory injury jokes).  So at least that went well?

  6. I saw the show in December. There were no mistakes, and we enjoyed the show. We enjoyed the first act a great deal, when the Spider-Man actors were flying all over the theater and the songs were decent. The second act … whew, what a mess. Whiny songs, incomprehensible plot … we almost fell asleep. But there is definitely something there, and we are glad we saw it.

  7. @cahubble09  You’re completely right.  It’s technically making money hand-over-fist at the box office, but you’re right; what’s the week to week operating cost?  There’s only so many seats you can sell in a house.  You could tell me they sell out every night and are still operating at a loss and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.  But the other point being made is, at a time of year when it’s tough to get people to go to a Broadway show (particularly at the current prices), “Spider-Man” continues to pack them in.

  8. Generally speaking, very few shows on Broadway actually make their money back (even ones that run for years) because the production costs are so high (not the least of which is the use of the space itself).  That said, I don’t see a universe where they only spent $65 million on this.  All that said, I think one thing a couple bloggers and critics have pointed out is that this is really designed for the Times Square crowd: tourists, a number of whom don’t speak English.  I think this would be judged a lot less harshly if neither Bono or Julie Taymor were involved.  It would probably still make as much money (live action acrobatic Spider Man show?  cool) and cost less.  Also, a less autuerish director would probably stick closer to the mythos and not have a Sinister Six fashion show.  They should keep this in mind for when they finally open Stephen Sondheim’s “X-Men on Ice.”

  9. I’ve never head of this until just now. interesting… I hope it does either really well or really badly just because I’m not a fan of “in the middle stagnation” when it comes to these kinds of experiments.

  10. I don’t see the appeal in paying hard earned money to watch a terrible show for the off chance that someone may get injured.  Despite the fun that comes from hearing about these wacky stories, I, for one, am ready for them to kill this thing.

  11. Im just sick of seeing the Turn off the dark posters hidden in my weekley ASM panels. 

  12. If this was Taymor’s first ever production then she’d be run out of town.

    I still find it incredibly depressing that our society will pay to see someone get injuried rather then to see a good show. 

  13. I still don’t get this incomprehensible plot. Did anyone involved read a Spider-Man book? It ain’t rocket science, unless they went for the kitchen sink approach (and if this has Carnage and Green Goblin and a new character, maybe that’s what they did).

  14. @BC1  From what I gather, it features Arachne the Spider-Goddess who sings about shoes and was responsible for Spidey getting his powers.  It’s kinda like the JMS spider-totem storylines, except not as good (take that for what it is.)  And the kitchen sink?  Forget Green Goblin, Arachne, and Carnage… this thing has the Sinister Six (Carnage, Electro, Kraven, the Lizard, Swarm… and Swiss Miss.  Really.)

  15. @TheNextChampion  If this was Julie Taymor’s first ever production, she wouldn’t have gotten $65 million and a huge corporate icon like Spider-Man to play with.  There’s a reason lots of people put up a lot of money and agreed to go out on this limb: she’s got the cred for it.

  16. @Race: I know she’s got the cred, and she’s done some good work. But even if this film is kinda making money; this definitely has to ruin some of her cred……just a little.

  17. @TheNextChampion  You know… maybe?   She’ll have been responsible for one of the most expensive and spectacular bombs in Broadway history… although a true “bomb” would have closed long ago.  (See Carrie: The Musical.)  There’s a certain legend that’s going to stick to this show, for good or for bad.  It’s really a fascinating case.  The reviews have been brutal, and word of mouth not much better… but people keep going to see.  It’s going to take some time to figure this out.  But she’ll survive this.  So will Bono and The Edge.  Even Scorsese has some bad films. (“Bringing Out The Dead”, anyone?)

  18. @Race: What’s to figure out the success? People want to see someone get hurt and/or possibly die onstage. It has nothing to do with the story, acting, or musical ability by anyone. It’s all about the possible ‘failures’ of this production that anyone even wants to see this.

  19. @TheNextChampion  You don’t get 100% box office night after night just because people want to see others fall and get hurt, especially not when some tickets are over $200.  Some of those people are there, yeah, and there is a whole section of theatregoers who LOVE to see bombs before they shut down… but what show are people from out of town hearing about more than anything else right now?  Spider-Man.  What’s the most recognizable commodity headlining a Broadway show right now?  Spider-Man.  What show says to moms and dads, “Not only will your little girl like it, but dad and your little boy might like it, too?” Spider-Man.  The property is the draw.

    They are definitely making bank off people who want to see a train wreck… but you don’t sell out Broadway houses night after night with just those people.  Don’t underestimate how hard it is to sell out a Broadway house.  It is a hard thing to do. 

  20. @TheNextChampion  And when I say “figure this out”, I don’t mean figuring out why people are seeing it.  I know why people are seeing it, and bomb-watching is one reason, no doubt.  I meant it’s going to take a long time to “figure out” the legacy of this show.  It’s a unique animal; not your average bomb.  

    Another thing that makes it such a tough investment, and makes it even more amazing that producers backed it to the tune of $65 million: this is a tough show to tour (producers usually end up making back their money when the show goes out on tour) and nearly an IMPOSSIBLE show to license the rights to.  What I mean is, when your college or high school or community theatre or local regional theatre wants to perform a Broadway show, or any show for that matter, they have to pay the producers subsidiary rights fees to get the permission to do so.  Can you imagine your local high school production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark?”  So that’s another traditional revenue stream for the producers that is not going to be as profitable as for a “normal” musical, I’d wager… which is another reason why they have to charge an arm and a leg for tickets.

    Although I’m sure the producers have thought about all of this for longer than I have and have other plans in place.  But it’s going to be fascinating to watch the story of this show unfold even long after it closes.