Wicked Pours $17.3 Million into Des Moines Economy

It’s official now: the green witch has defeated the big cat.

Wicked, the Broadway musical, set a new box office record for one week sales at the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. It easily broke the previous record set in 2006 by The Lion King. Wicked also did a much better job of getting theatergoers into the local restaurants and keeping them there.

On Sunday Wicked, a prequel for “The Wizard of Oz,” closed a run of four weeks with the attendance total at 84,000. According to the Civic Center, of the 32 performances many were sold out and the overall attendance was over ninety seven percent total capacity.

The last week was Wicked’s best week when there were $1.5 million in ticket sales, $300,000 more than The Lion King’s best week. The four week total was over $5.7 million. Although The Lion King’s gross was higher at $6.6 million, the show ran an extra two weeks.

Even though its run was shorter, the community impact of Wicked was bigger, to the tune of $17.3 million according to the Civic Center as well as the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2006 official estimated The Lion King’s economic impact to be $13.2 million.

Greg Edwards, chief of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that downtown restaurants had been very happy.

Hotels also saw extra business as groups from Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota and other states came to attend the show, said Dale Stark, Civic Center spokesman. He added that tickets had even been ordered from the two coasts, with one listing their home as British Columbia.

Jeff Chelesvig, chief of the Civic Center, said a lot had happened since the three years when The Lion King played in Des Moines.

There are more restaurants that are within walking distance to the Civic Center. Des Moines has also become a lot more cosmopolitan.

Another important difference effecting the economic impact, according to Chelesvig was that The Lion King show was more of a family night out, whereas as Wicked was more of a date night event.

The restaurants nearby the Civic Center experienced big increases in business during Wicked.

Bruce Gerleman, owner of the restaurant Splash, which is only a block away from the Civic Center, said every night of the play we sold out the restaurant and oyster bar. On most of the nights there was a waiting list.

Mike Utley, manager of the Court Avenue Brewing Company, which is only three blocks from the Civic Center, said they were full each night before the Wicked show and also got a lot of business after performances from cast members.

Utley said that they have made a special beer for Wicked named “The Flying Money Dubbel.” It is a dark Belgian that the pub had started on in August. There might still be some beer available this week, Utley said, depending on what was sold on the weekend.

Even over a half mile away the restaurants Django and Centro at the Hotel Fort Des Moines saw a 15 percent increase in business due to Wicked, according to Paul Rottenberg of Orchestrate, the company that manages the two restaurants.

Wicked’s economic impact extended from beyond downtown. Rottenberg said that the several of the crew and cast members staying in West Des Moines made frequent purchases at Gateway Market which is on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

The estimated sales tax receipts for Wicked are about $326,000, according to Stark from the Civic Center.

Wicked also paid out over $250,000 in wages to 150 local residents, including stagehands, musicians, wardrobe and makeup people.

Wicked has set the record as the most popular production in Des Moines. Now the ticket sales challenge goes back to The Lion King. The show starts a three week run on January 6 at the Civic Center.

By Julie Harmon On October 20, 2009

All photos made available via creative commons licensing courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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