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Summer Tour Affirms Metallica's Drawing Power

Making a case for hard music, stadium tours in general and Metallica’s own status as a headliner, Summer Sanitarium 2003 goes down as a winner, taking in $46.4 million and drawing 683,472 headbangers to 19 dates.

The tour reaffirms the box-office clout of Metallica, which is currently in the planning stages of an extensive headlining tour next year, tentatively set to begin in March.

Metallica last toured in 2000, taking in $40.5 million from only 20 shows. About a dozen of those concerts were Summer Sanitarium dates, featuring Kid Rock, Korn and others.

This year’s Summer Sanitarium lineup featured Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Mudvayne and the Deftones, in addition to Metallica, and was one of only two stadium tours for 2003. (The other was Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band on a limited run.)

While the Sanitarium lineup was powerful, Metallica was clearly the linchpin act in a summer crowded with multi-act hard-music tours. Whether the competition was Ozzfest ($23 million) or Lollapalooza ($14 million), Sanitarium easily came out on top, according to Billboard Boxscore.

That’s good news for an industry where longevity and consistency are valuable commodities. “Metallica qualifies themselves once again as the best hard rock band on the planet,” says Rick Franks, regional VP for Clear Channel Entertainment and promoter of the July 4 Pontiac (Mich.) Silverdome date that took in $2.5 million.

In a season of few home runs, Summer Sanitarium averaged 35,972 in attendance and $2.4 million in gross per night, topped by a whopping $4.1 million date Aug. 9 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

In Canada, the tour grossed $2 million July 5 at the Skydome and $2.2 million July 20 at Parc Jean Drapeau in Montreal, the latter gig drawing 41,738 people.

“It was a huge, impressive show, and production was over the top,” says Nick Farkas, executive director of talent for Montreal-based promoter Gillette Entertainment. “It was the most people we’ve ever done for a paid outdoor show in Montreal.”

Indeed, successes were plentiful. “We had some very big dates and some very big grosses, and I think this tour certainly confirmed that Metallica is still the king of their genre,” says Dennis Arfa, president of Artists Group International, booking agency for the band.

“I think this tour also shows – as does the Springsteen tour – that stadium tours can still be successful, providing you have the right artists and the right elements,” Arfa adds. “It’s still very limited, and it has to be special.”

Farkas says the success of the tour also is evidence of hard rock’s power. “The whole metal/hard rock genre is having a huge resurgence,” he says. “Even so, there are very few bands you can put out there that will generate these kinds of numbers. It’s very encouraging that people would pay $85 for general admission to see a concert in a field.”

Meanwhile, as Metallica preps for its headlining tour, the stage seems set for another winner. Metallica is a band that cut its teeth in arenas, and it is likely fans will relish a chance to see the group on its own in this environment.

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