SECOND IN A SERIES: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop juggernaut is the first single-author show to win a Tony Award for best new musical since Jonathan Larson’s Rent, in 1996. With no writing partner to share the mammoth royalties and profits, the 38-year-old composer-lyricist-librettist and actor stands to earn hundreds of millions of dollars should Hamilton have a long life.
Miranda amassed $12.7 million in author royalties and profit participation from the Broadway production in the 12 months ending in July 2017, according to a production financial statement filed with the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. That’s more than the $11.6 million median annual compensation for a large-company chief executive, based on a recent Wall Street Journal analysis.
There are four other editions of Hamilton — currently in Chicago, London, Salt Lake City and Houston — selling briskly in venues substantially larger than the Richard Rodgers Theatre and paying Miranda based on more generous terms than he receives on Broadway. Spokesmen for the composer and the producers declined to comment.
Miranda earns 7.5 percent of adjusted box office on Broadway and up to 8.5 percent of adjusted box office out-of-town. (Of that, he gives up about 1 percentage point to Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow for the “underlying rights.” And Miranda pays up to 10 percent of of his earnings to agents.) We estimate that total Hamilton grosses exceed $700 million. He’s also entitled to 3 percent of profit of each production.
Like 31 other members of the Hamilton original cast and six stage managers, Miranda will receive about $30,000 this year from a profit-share settlement with Hamilton Uptown, which presents the show on Broadway. Then there’s a portion of $88,400 for Broadway music arrangements in 2016-17; Miranda is credited as a co-arranger, with Alex Lacamoire. Miranda earns an undisclosed cut of $1.5 million in annual royalties from the Hamilton original cast recording, official merchandise and the coffee table book, Hamilton: The Revolution.
In a further embarrassment of riches, Miranda stars in this year’s Mary Poppins movie remake and has at least two upcoming Disney composing gigs, after writing songs for 2016’s animated movie Moana. He’s increasingly active as a fundraiser, which we explore tomorrow.
Jeffrey Seller, with business partner Kevin McCollum, produced such landmark shows as Rent, Avenue Q and In the Heights. When Heights won best musical at the Tonys in 2008, the pair hoisted Miranda, its composer and lyricist, on their shoulders onstage at Radio City Music Hall.
Seller and McCollum’s partnership ended as Hamilton was getting attention as a work-in-progress. They publicly broke up in a Jan. 6, 2012, New York Times joint interview, in which Seller said he wished to oversee solo the projects that he loves. (Neither producer commented for this story.) Five days later, on Jan. 11, Seller registered his new production company, Adventureland LLC. That night, Miranda previewed his work-in-progress at a Lincoln Center American Songbook concert, to enthusiastic response. Seller optioned it within months.
The Broadway production distributes its first 17 percent of profit to the following: the Public Theater, Miranda, Miranda’s father (see below), director Tommy Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, the original cast and Seller. As the sole lead producer, Seller gets 5 percentage points, for financing and developing Hamilton. After all off-the-top profits are paid, Seller with two co-producers, Jill Furman and Sander Jacobs, share what’s left with investors.
The papers don’t disclose how the producers divide their profits among themselves, or how much they share with investors who helped enhance the 2015 Public Theater off-Broadway tryout, or what producers are entitled to for investing their own money. Seller has said he invests in all his shows, and lost more than a $1 million on his previous venture, The Last Ship.
The producers receive 3 percent of adjusted box office — or $3.8 million for Broadway in 2016-17 — plus annual expenses, known as office charges, of $200,000 for the Broadway production.
Given our estimate of $250 million of Hamilton profits to-date, the three producers have collectively earned in the neighborhood of $115 million, plus about $20 million from their share of box office.
The Public Theater’s windfall-to-date should be close to $20 million. The nonprofit is consolidating rehearsal space across the street from its downtown headquarters.
Like Miranda and Seller, other creative team members are as busy as ever, and can afford to pick and choose future projects. Kail, the director, gets 3 percent of adjusted box office — $3.8 million for Broadway alone last season — plus 1.5 percent of every production’s profit.
Choreographer Blankenbuehler earns 1.75 percent of adjusted box office, plus 0.5 percent of profit, totaling $2.5 million from Broadway last season. He’s an investor in the show, as is set designer David Korins and the Nederlander Organization, which owns the Richard Rodgers.
For his orchestrations, Lacamoire earned $1.1 million on Broadway for 2016-17. Korins, costume designer Paul Tazewell and lighting designer Howell Binkley each received $630,000 for Broadway.
Luis Miranda Jr., Lin-Manuel’s father, gets 1 percent of profit for every Hamilton production, although he lacks a credit on the show. The stake is worth at least $2 million annually given current sales. Lin-Manuel has said that his father, a successful lobbyist and political consultant from Puerto Rico, was an inspiration for the musical. (Alexander Hamilton was an orphan from the Caribbean.) The family is close and they support each others’ projects and causes. Luis was present during Hamilton‘s development and years earlier gave Lin work when he was a struggling young composer.
Actors & Stage Managers
The actors began collectively campaigning for a stake shortly after the Broadway opening, when 22 of them wrote to Seller. (Miranda wasn’t among the signers.) They maintained that while they didn’t write, choreograph or direct the show, their contribution was as vital as those who did. Much of the second act was created during rehearsals for the off-Broadway production, with actors providing input on choreography, staging and characterizations, according to interviews with members of the original company and emails they exchanged privately.
The letter to Seller, originally published by Bloomberg, cited the Actors’ Equity workshop agreement, which provides for at least 1 percent of box office income to a cast for its developmental role. Both Book of Mormon and In the Heights had used that workshop contract.
By the time Hamilton was being created, the contract had fallen out of favor with producers. They generally prefer the so-called developmental lab agreement, which gives them more flexibility casting a production and pays actors a higher weekly salary, with no stake in future revenue.
Under pressure from the cast, Seller eventually ceded 1 percent of Broadway profit. That’s more than the 32 actors and six stage managers were legally entitled to — zero — but less than half of what the workshop contract provides. Recipients also share 0.33 percent of profits from U.S. productions outside New York.
The actors and stage managers waited more than a year for their first checks because $796,000 of bonuses paid early in the Broadway run were treated as an advance against the profit share. Seller had issued the bonuses, of about $30,000 each, to retroactively subsidize the actors’ off-Broadway work. Each was paid $781 a week downtown, according to the original casting notice.
As of August 2017, beneficiaries each received about $5,400 in profit share. Each previously paid $4,000 in fees to the law firm Pryor Cashman to negotiate the pact. Participants were required to sign confidentiality agreements as part of the settlement. Ron Shechtman, managing partner of Pryor Cashman, declined to comment.
During the first year, cast morale had suffered amidst other tussles with management, including over pay for moving sets onstage during performances and money for massages to supplement physical therapy. Injuries were common, given the nonstop dancing, jumping, navigating onstage staircases and turntables and lifting fellow cast members and furniture, insiders said. Actors’ Equity doesn’t make production injury reports public.
Equity Executive Director Mary McColl declined an interview request. She said in a statement that the union has been discussing “all of the ways producers develop their work and how members can be compensated for it.” Hamilton, she said, “has given us some momentum.” As Broadway becomes more blockbuster-driven — a third of current shows have repaid investors and run more than a year — Equity has an opportunity to negotiate more of a stake for actors in the industry’s success. The Broadway production contract expires in September 2019.
(Profit in this story refers to ‘net profit’ and ‘adjusted net profit,’ which are weekly operating profit after a show recoups production costs. Adjusted box office means grosses after taxes, credit card commissions, union pension contributions and other revenue that the production doesn’t keep. )
Editor: Alice Scovell