Nickelodeon is hoping that its new live Rugrats
stage show, "Rugrats -- A Live Adventure," which is set to travel to at least 40
major cities in the United States and Canada this year, will not only help to promote one
of the company's strongest franchises, but that it will actually turn a profit.
Live shows, according to Howard Smith, vice president of
Nickelodeon's recreation division, are a notoriously risky business, with "eight
out of 10" shows failing. The network's previous four forays into the live
touring business ("Family Double-Dare Live," "Nickelodeon Live Tour,"
"Mega Messa Mania" and "Gullah Gullah Island Live") were primarily
"promotional vehicles," Smith said.
But Nickelodeon has been able to move the tours "more
into a business model," he said, with Rugrats -- A Live Adventure "trending
toward being profitable."
Although the tour began last month in Wallingford, Conn.,
its "Broadway opening," Nickelodeon executives said, comes April 3, when the
show begins a nine-day run at Radio City Music Hall in New York. After playing the major
markets this year, Smith said, the tour will go to secondary and tertiary markets next
year, and to Europe and Latin America the year after that.
The entertainment goal of the live Rugrats show,
Smith said, was to create a "theatrical experience" for children and to avoid
what he called a "traditional 'skip-and-wave'" stage show.
Isabel Miller, Nickelodeon's director of promotions
marketing, said the network sees the tour as a way to help align all of its Rugrats
lines of business, which include the TV show, a movie slated for Thanksgiving release,
licensed consumer products, a monthly comic magazine and a new syndicated newspaper comic
strip, which is set to debut in the spring.
The tour will be marketed and promoted through a
"fully integrated" campaign with its presenting sponsor, M&Ms
"Minis" candies, Miller said. M&Ms will promote the tour on candy packages
and work with Nickelodeon on local promotions and contests, Miller added.
L'Oreal Kids shampoo has signed on as an associate
sponsor, and other promotional elements will include a sweepstakes in Nickelodeon
magazine; spots on Nickelodeon; print, radio and TV ads in local media; and direct mail.
"We see Rugrats as a franchise that's a
long-term proposition for us," Miller said, "and this is part of a multiyear
plan to support different lines of business."