Saying Goodbye to a Show About Death

Words by Moira Armstrong

Beetlejuice, the Broadway adaptation of the 1988 cult classic, has been on an upward trajectory since its opening this past October. The show grossed $1.6 million over Thanksgiving week, smashing Winter Garden records, and has exploded in popularity, in large part due to exposure on social media. Though not necessarily lauded by the critics, it’s now a (highly lucrative) fan favorite, which made yesterday’s news all the more shocking.

The Shubert Organization has ordered Beetlejuice to vacate the Winter Garden Theatre to make room for the incoming revival of The Music Man, so the show will play its final performance on June 6. The Music Man is produced by the extremely powerful Scott Rudin and stars Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. This will make it nearly impossible to recoup the show’s investment.

The future isn’t clear for Beetlejuice; a North American tour will begin in 2021, but their elaborate set would make a move to a new theatre in New York expensive and possibly not viable. A North American tour will begin in 2021.

The New York Times reports that this occurred because the Shubert Organization invoked a stop clause, which allows eviction if a show does not meet previously-agreed-upon grosses for a determined period of time. This situation is unusual, though, in that its grosses have made an incredible rebound; however, since the Winter Garden had already committed to the next tenant, the show is still being asked to leave.

Invoking such a clause is not unprecedented, but what makes this situation unusual is that although “Beetlejuice” fell below the specified level last May, since then its grosses have rebounded. Another complication arose when Warner Brothers, the overarching organization producing Beetlejuice, proposed compromises–such as paying to relocate To Kill A Mockingbird so that The Music Man could move into the Shubert–but the production teams couldn’t agree on a price tag, and The Music Man’s team clearly wanted the Winter Garden.

However, the team isn’t giving up. They’re proud of their show’s ability to bring in new audiences, explore new platforms such as TikTok, and bounce back from bad sales. As one of their producers said, “We’d be foolish to give up. You don’t work this hard to not power on.” So, like the title character, perhaps this show will come back from the dead.


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