clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

CONVOLUTED FINANCIAL SCANDAL DAWNS ON `SUNSET'

A scandal involving "Sunset Boulevard" box-office figures shocked Broadway this week and led to a resignation offer by Edgar Dobie, the head of North American operations for the Really Useful Group, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's production company.

Sir Andrew released a letter Thursday saying that he was refusing Dobie's resignation, but it took a rather paternalistic tone; Sir Andrew distanced himself from Dobie's decision to inflate box-office figures, even calling it "idiotic." That may leave Dobie little choice but to quit.The fuss began when Jeremy Gerard, writing in Daily Variety, obtained a Ticketmaster box-office statement for March 7 to 12, the first week Glenn Close was on a previously announced vacation and replaced by her understudy, Karen Mason. It said the show had sold $569,720 worth of tickets. That was $155,000 less than the show had reported to Variety, which prints weekly box-office figures for all Broadway shows. Variety usually gets its figures from theater owners, but "Sunset" insisted on providing its own.

The implication in Gerard's article on Wednesday was that Really Useful was trying to show, falsely, that "Sunset" could thrive without Close, which will be a crucial issue when she leaves for good in July.

That day, Dobie released a letter explaining the discrepancy and apologizing. Because "Sunset" had 5,462 tickets available during Close's two-week vacation, he said, it passed many of them to "worthy organizations" (like the Theater Development Fund, which makes them available at deep discounts to the elderly, students and the handicapped). But it reported those tickets as sold at full value.

However, Broadway shows routinely get rid of excess tickets that way, or send them to the TKTS booth, and they account for the discounting instead of disguising the figures.

Dobie did not respond to phone calls Thursday. A spokesman for Sir Andrew said he believed that Lloyd Webber did not intend to force Dobie to resign but would not comment further.