“Money, Money, Money” goes the Abba ditty that will certainly become Mamma Mia‘s swan song as it begins its long goodbye leading up to shuttering on Labor Day. It’s a pretty good anthem for this week’s box office report as well: Heading into the season’s final stretch, the total tally was flat from last week ($29.4 million, versus last week’s $29.5 million), but it’s the year-on-year numbers at Week 46 that tell a tale: Season to date, according to the trade group Broadway League, the 40 designated theaters took in $1.201 billion, compared with $1.083 billion a year ago. Attendance is also up, by 10%, to 11.4 million.
That’s the good news, if hardly the whole story. (It doesn’t account, for example, for the impact of dynamic pricing, i.e., premium seats, which have altered the demographic makeup of the audience, a subject we’ll tackle at a later time.) More good news, especially for producers Matthew Byam Shaw, Robert Fox and Andy Harries: Peter Morgan’s The Audience, starring Helen Mirren, recouped its $3.4M capitalization after eight weeks, with 10 cream-filled weeks to go before its scheduled closing at the Shubert-owned Schoenfeld Theatre on June 28.
The week was marked by four openings greeted with varied reception: Hand To God won raves, including this from Rex Reed in The Observer: “I’ve wasted some lousy evenings in the theater, but a brainless barrage of trash, heresy, stupidity and nausea called Hand to God is the first time, in all my years on the aisle, that I have finally seen an entire stage filled with unmitigated crap.” Man, if that doesn’t sell some tickets to this ferociously funny bad-boy show, I don’t know what will…And honestly Rex, remember Metro? There’s A Girl In My Soup? Starlight effing Express?
Wolf Hall Parts 1 & 2 and An American In Paris also got major thumbs ups across the board. Critics were tougher on Vanessa Hudgens’ Broadway debut in a bowdlerized take on Lerner and Loewe’s Gigi. The musical revivals especially will be competing for audience dollars in a sector that demands only the highest-touted productions.
Many of the newcomers showed growing signs of life as they edge toward the next few weeks of mad openings: Finding Neverland began fielding critics and was nonetheless crowing about its $1.1 million take at the Nederlanders’ Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, remaining steadily above the million-dollar water line. Doctor Zhivago, at the Shuberts’ Broadway, was up $168K to $536K, still just 42% of potential. The Tyne Daly/Harriet Harris starrer It Shoulda Been You was up $92K at the Nederlanders’ Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
Something Rotten, at Jujamcyn’s St. James, was up$112K to $619K — but I can’t tell you how many seats that translates to because, in the latest variation on dynamic pricing, some producers are now turning to, oh let’s just call it dynamic seating: the League reports that three different capacities were used for the show. Some days there were 1,339 seats. Then there were 1,341 seats. And then there were 1,345 seats. And since the St. James actually has 1,710 seats, you may legitimately ask, Huh? Chalk it up to the fact that the balcony (not to be confused with the mezzanine) has been closed off. Unless, of course, the show’s a hit and there are that many more tickets to sell. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A similar deal has been going down at the Nederlanders’ Gershwin, home to the long running, hugely successful Wicked. Seven performances were calculated at a capacity of 1,926 seats, but one squeaked in with a mere 1,807. Go know.
Disney’s The Lion King was the week’s top-grossing show, at $2.29 million and with an average ticket price of $170.67 at the Nederlanders’ Minskoff. The top grossing non-musical was Fish In The Dark ($1.17 million at the Shuberts’ Cort).
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