ScarJo to purr for $48k a week

REOW: Scarlett Johansson will add a dose of sex and glamour to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
REOW: Scarlett Johansson will add a dose of sex and glamour to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Scarlett Johansson is guaranteed a minimum of $40,000 a week (NZ $48,000) to add a dose of sex and glamour to the battered Broadway season in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, according to offering papers distributed to investors.

The base weekly pay for Broadway actors is $1754 (NZ $2102). The offering papers illustrate how celebrities are rewarded and still have an incentive to fill seats.

The Tennessee Williams revival begins previews on December 18. By then, two new plays and one musical will have made hasty exits, with Chaplin due to close on January 6.

The 28-year-old movie star, playing the seductive and neglected wife Maggie, can earn more should Cat sell. She won't match Al Pacino's $125,000 (NZ $150,000) salary for Glengarry Glen Ross unless Cat becomes a Glengarry-scale hit, according to Roof Theatricals LP papers obtained by Bloomberg News.

Johansson won a Tony Award for her 2010 Broadway debut, a revival of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge directed by Gregory Mosher, in which she co-starred with Liev Schreiber.

"People really want to see Scarlett Johansson," said Annette Niemtzow, a producer on Leap of Faith and Frost/Nixon who isn't involved with Cat. "She's proved her chops and they want to see how she'll do in a starring role. Maggie the cat is one of the great sexual roles."

General manager and producer Stuart Thompson - a publicity-shy expat Australian whom Johansson called "the classiest man in show business" during her Tony acceptance speech - is mounting the $3.6 million (NZ $4.3 million) revival with a cast of 18 and five understudies. Weekly sales must average $750,211 (NZ $899,000), excluding credit card commissions, to repay investors over the 15-week run, according to the partnership's preliminary estimates.

The Richard Rodgers Theatre could gross $1.2 million a week (NZ $1.4 million) over eight performances, even before accounting for premium seats in the first 16 rows currently as dear as $240 (NZ $287).

(Producers often raise premium prices on hit shows during a run. Discounted tickets as low as $55 (NZ $66) are available for Cat in the rear mezzanine.)

Glengarry - the biggest hit of the flop-filled fall - grossed $1.2 million (NZ 1.4 million) over eight performances in the week ended December 9. Its top ticket price has been as high as $377 (NZ $451).

Thompson and Johansson declined to comment through a production spokesman, Susanne Tighe.

In addition to her $40,000 guarantee, Johansson collects 7.5 per cent of ticket sales above $530,000 (NZ $635,000) (after deducting for commissions and averaged over four weeks). Once investors are paid 10 per cent beyond their initial outlay, her take rises to 10 per cent of grosses plus 5 per cent of profit.

Benjamin Walker, a Juilliard-trained actor who's portrayed Andrew Jackson on stage and Abraham Lincoln on film, plays Maggie's dissolute husband, Brick. His pay and that of Ciaran Hinds (Big Daddy) and Debra Monk (Big Mama) aren't listed.

The offering papers estimate weekly running expenses of $378,000 (NZ $453,000), plus royalties.

The Williams estate gets 6 percent of box office; theater owner Nederlander Organization gets 5 per cent plus $10,000 a week ($NZ 12,000); director Rob Ashford earns 3 per cent of sales plus a $65,000 (NZ $79,000) onetime fee plus 2 per cent of profits; Thompson's Wombat Crossing 3 and his general-management company earn 3 per cent of box office plus a $40,000 (NZ $48,000) fee, plus $6000 (NZ $7000) a week, plus 2.5 per cent of initial profits and half the investment pool.

The papers don't disclose whether Thompson gave up any "adjusted net profit" to other producers listed in publicity materials for the show.

Given the success of View from the Bridge and a 2008 all-black production of Cat starring Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose and James Earl Jones, this production appears to have a good chance of repaying backers. Their upside is limited by the royalty pool's increasing share of grosses and Johansson and Ashford's profits paid off the top.

Pacino receives a minimum of $125,000 a week (NZ $150,000), plus 5 per cent of any profits, according to the operating agreement for the show obtained from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Cat is scheduled to open on January 17.

- Washington Post-Bloomberg