Monty Python members are older, wiser and very wealthy
AND NOW for something completely lucrative.
As the cast members of the Monty Python troupe gathered in New York last night for a 40th anniversary reunion, the group had reason for a celebration of a different kind.
Monty Python is now generating more money than at any time in its past, largely through DVD sales and television licensing rights, according to Roger Saunders, the troupe's manager. It is also exploring new ways to generate cash from its back catalogue.
The team's success stems from copyright ownership of the original 45 television shows as well as all the rights for Monty Python's Life of Brian film and shared ownership of the rights to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It helped that they financed the latter, their first film, independently with help from record companies and rock bands Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
A year ago the team took a gamble by creating a Monty Python channel on YouTube and posting high-quality clips, which users could watch for free, while at the same time encouraging those who wanted to see more to buy their DVDs. They also take a share of the site's advertising revenue.
For years Python fans had been ripping off the troupe, taking tens of thousands of their videos and putting them up free of charge on YouTube. By creating their own channel, the Pythons regained some control over their use. DVD sales immediately spiked, albeit from a low base.
"Monty Python sells well on DVD. It's a very strong brand and we have been able to reinvent it over the years," Mr Saunders told The Times. "We put effort into making sure it is distributed properly on DVD and licensed to television. They make more now than they did at the time."
Python (Monty) Pictures' revenue is running at just under £5 million a year. Sales of DVDs, distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment and A&E, account for about half of the revenue. Since 2003, Spamalot, the Tony award-winning Broadway musical, has brought in one third of sales.
Spamalot grossed $168 million before it closed at New York's Shubert Theatre in January, according to the Broadway League, a trade association of landlords and producers.
Mr Saunders said that the cast members - John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and the family of the late Graham Chapman - earned between £300,000 and £500,000 a year each in this way.
Mr Idle has received more Python money in recent years for having co-written Spamalot with John Du Prez.
One of the troupe's latest money-making ventures is a six-part television documentary. The Pythons gathered last night at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre for a screening of the series, which will be shown in full in America - the BBC agreed only to show a condensed 60-minute version.
The reunion, just the third time all the remaining Pythons have appeared in public since 1998, comes as Mr Idle and Mr Du Prez prepare for the European premiere of Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy), a "comedic oratorio" at London's Royal Albert Hall later this month. There is also a new book from Hyperion Books in the US and Simon & Schuster in the UK.
* Alexandra Frean
* From: The Times
* October 16, 2009 9:30AM
... and I add: AND DON'T THEY DESERVE EVERY PENNY OF IT????
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