Arithmetic is as much a concern to the 60 professional showmen who have cast their pitch in the New York World's Fair amusement area as it is to the amateur showmen who are struggling with the Big Show itself. At the last audit, fortnight ago, the amusement section had divided a take from Fair visitors of a shade over $3,000,000, and it was not enough.
If Fair attendance picks up, a few of the showmen may yet make out, but already two major enterprises have folded, the $300,000 Cuban Village and the Savoy blackface show. Broadway's shop talk, an amalgam of arithmetic and intuition, last week held: 1) that unless Fair attendance looks up, the amusement area as a whole may lose $5,000,000 before closing; 2) that any profits worth talking about so far had been rung up by three concessionaires: Frank Buck's monkey mountain, Jungleland; Life Saver's Parachute Jump; Billy Rose's Aquacade. Housed in the Marine Amphitheatre in the New York State Building, at the gateway to the amusement section and smack across the Fair from the Trylon & Perisphere Theme Centre, the Aquacade and its huge electric sign last week flashed out one of the most amazing success stories in the anthology of show business.
One fact puts the Aquacade in a class by itself among the concessions: Mr. Rose's show had welcomed 2,500,000 customers by last week. At this rate (one out of every six paid admissions to the Fair), it can expect at least 4,000,000 customers by October 30. At Aquacade rates (40¢ to 99¢; average about 50¢) that meant a gross to date of something over $1,500,000 (plus an additional $15,000 a week for plugging some 14 products, from Pepsi-Cola to opera glasses). Billy Rose has an equally remarkable way with costs about $30,000 a week at the Aquacadeand Billy says he is clearing from the Aquacade after expenses as much as $80,000 a week. Although the Fair takes a cut ranging from 8% to 25% of gross receipts from amusement concessions, under Rose's contract his payments did not begin until he had recouped $160,000 he spent to roof the Marine Amphitheatre and build a swimming pool (his total Aquacade investment: $375,000).