Saturday, March 23, 2013 3:08 pm
'Book of Mormon' smashes 1-day box office record
By MARK KENNEDYAP Drama Writer
The quirky, profane musical opened Thursday night to some critical bashing, but the next day earned the highest one-day gross in London theater history.
Between 10 a.m. and midnight Friday, 2,107,972 million pounds ($3.2 million) worth of tickets were sold at the box office, according to final figures. By comparison, the Broadway version only earned $1.5 million the day after it opened to rapturous reviews.
"London can be tough," Scott Rudin, an influential theater and film producer who has steered "The Book of Mormon," said by phone Friday night after flying back from England. "American musicals tend to get knocked in the teeth in London, by and large. It's a tougher place."
The show is now booked at the Prince of Wales Theatre until January, but Rudin predicts it may be in London for a long time to come.
The $3.2 million windfall is technically higher than the current West End and Broadway one-day record of $3.1 million that poured in the day after "The Producers" opened on Broadway in 2001, but that haul hasn't been adjusted for inflation.
"The Book of Mormon" by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and "Avenue Q" composer Robert Lopez tells the story of two Mormon missionaries sent to spread the word in Uganda.
In New York, "The Book of Mormon" won nine Tony Awards in 2011, including best musical. The show also won a Grammy Award and recouped its $11.4 million capitalization after just nine months. It remains the toughest ticket to get on Broadway.
A production has opened in Chicago - it set a house record for the Bank of America Theatre and has been extended three times until September - and a national tour kicked off in August in Denver, where it has broken box office records as it crosses the country.
The tour is currently in Detroit - where it already has broken the Fisher Theatre's house record for a standard eight-performance week - through the weekend, and then goes to Pittsburgh, Boston, Toronto, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
In London, most critics praised the production's skill and the English cast's energy, though some were left uncharmed, including the Daily Mail critic, who "tired of it after 10 minutes." The Guardian called it "mildly amusing."
Rudin said despite some grousing by London critics, the crowds have been enthusiastic, particularly the English fans of "South Park." Pent-up demand for the show has been roiling since the New York opening. And, unlike in New York, London audiences knew what to expect.
Though Rudin admits he was anxious in the days leading to the London opening, he recognized that the show's humor - jokes about African dictatorships, AIDS and poverty - would translate.
"The story and humor of `The Book of Mormon' is deeply influenced by Monty Python's Flying Circus," he said. "I knew that would work over there."
The West End has just enjoyed its ninth successive year of record box office returns and attendance went up slightly in 2012 to 13.9 million. This season, in addition to "The Book of Mormon," the West End is hosting the musicals "Once" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Family" and plays with Helen Mirren and by John Logan.
Rudin, who has also produced the films "No Country for Old Men" and "The Social Network," has been busy on Broadway this season, putting on the Scarlett Johansson-led "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" revival and the upcoming "The Testament of Mary."
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