Last week, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the musical about Spider-Man with music by U2's Bono and The Edge, posted its first weekly box office take under one million dollars since the play opened in 2010. That's bad news for the already most ill-conceived and unlucky production of all time, since the play runs at an operating cost of $1.2 million a week. With a $75 million starting budget (the most expensive in the history of Broadway), producers announced in November of 2011 that the show would need to continue netting $300,000 a week for six years just to break even. Obviously, that can't happen if the play is losing money.
But what went wrong?
"I don't understand this at all," said Professor Thaddeus T. Puffinbottoms of the DeVry Institute of Broadway Musicals Based on Comic Books (DIBMBC). "This should have been a no brainer! What goes together better than elaborate song and dance routines and Spider-Man?"
"Agreed," said Spider-Man 3 director Sam Raimi, popping up out of nowhere as if he had been waiting for years for someone to make that statement.
"Add, on top of that, mind-numbingly awful music composed by two of the most pretentious asshats ever to walk the face of the planet from one of the most overrated bands of all time," Puffinbottoms continued, "and this should have been a runaway success, making, by my calculations, a trillion dollars in its first six months."
Puffinbottoms removed his bowler cap and scratched his bald head comically.
"Who could have predicted things would end badly?" he pondered.
Who besides anyone with any common sense?
But it isn't just a terrible concept, horrible music, an insane budget, and a clunky, nonsensical title that's dragging the show down. Another big problem and cause of expense with the play is its high mortality rate. On an average night's performance, at least one actor or actress is killed in a tragic stage accident due to the malfunction of an intricate and extremely expensive prop or special effect. Ten to fifteen other cast members usually sustain injuries, some of which are career-ending or horrifically disfiguring. The damage to the audience ranges from "two and a half hours of my life I can never get back" to gruesome and painful death from the impact of a rogue, detached rubber piece of the Green Goblin's shoulder pads traveling at an unsafe velocity in a random trajectory.
"Just last week, the actor who plays Flash Thompson fell through a trap door on the stage down into a twenty foot deep pit with iron spikes at the bottom," said stagehand William Booth, though he couldn't explain why the pit even existed, since it isn't part the play.
"That spike pit cost half a million dollars to install," he told us, shaking his head solemnly. "We could have gotten a used one much cheaper from the set of the 1980s Nickelodeon show Double Dare, but we decided what the hey, we might as well splurge, you know?"
Jesus Christ! Who would sign up for this shit?!
"It's getting to the point where we can't even get people to audition," complained casting director Rachel Hoffman. "We usually put out an ad saying we're casting actors for a revival of Cats, and once people show up we lock the doors and literally throw handfuls of money at them until they agree to be in the play."
"There's a 35% mortality rate," she added. "but hardly anyone can... oh, look out!"
Hoffman tackled us to the ground as poison-tipped darts suddenly shot out from the walls to both sides of us, barely missing.
"Close one," she told us as she stood up and brushed herself off. "I should really get that fixed."
So why is the set of a family-friendly Broadway production littered with dangerous and completely inappropriate ways to maim and kill unsuspecting passerby, anyway? How much of the show's ludicrous budget is spent on pointless and immensely irresponsible death traps? What the hell is the point of all of this?!
"Look, we're probably not going to make it out of here alive, so there's no harm in telling you," Hoffman confided, leading us over to an elaborate coffee machine that probably cost five million dollars to build. She pressed a button and watched the machine spray the various ingredients of a cafe latte into a diamond-encrusted styrofoam cup. Pulling a small canvas sack out of her pocket, she eyed the statue, then the sack, then the statue again. She poured some sand out of the sack and weighed it in her hand, satisfied.
"Latte?" she asked.
"The whole thing started out as an elaborate prank," she explained as she hovered over the coffee with sack in hand. "We thought, hey, I wonder if someone would give us twenty million dollars to make a play about Spider-Man."
"Ha-ha-ha ha! Ridiculous, right?" she laughed. "Well, when we saw there were people out there stupid enough to think this was actually a good idea, we asked for more, and more, and even more. There was nothing our financiers, who may very well be the dumbest people on Earth, wouldn't approve."
"At this rate, we should be bankrupt within a couple of months," she added, suddenly snatching the coffee from the machine and replacing it with the sack of sand. She waited silently and breathlessly for a moment, and when nothing seemed to happen, she went on. "And if the other six times production has been shut down because we ran out of money are any indication, we'll probably get someone to give us half a billion to get things rolling again."
She took a sip of her latte proudly. "I think we're okay," she said.
Just then, the coffee machine began receding into the wall behind it and the ceiling opened up, revealing a giant stone boulder which started rolling toward us.
"Run!" shouted Hoffman, tossing her coffee to the ground and taking off in a sprint. "Run for your life!"
Jude Terror, reporting for The Outhouse from the set of the money-bleeding and treacherous Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. If I don't make it home, tell my wife and kids I love them.