Broadway offered something for everyone last week, as long as everyone was loaded with dough. Face-value ducats topped out at $1,150 for blockbuster Hamilton, but that was Monopoly money considering the going rate for fans of Bette Midler (nearing the spectacular end of her spectacular run in Hello, Dolly!) and Bruce Springsteen (whose work week is limited to five performances at the 948-seat Walter Kerr).
The 32 shows on offer were filled to 95% of capacity, many for nine performances instead of the usual eight. Customers laid out $50.35 million, an all-time high consistent with the trend of rising ticket prices, so-called dynamic pricing and increasing the stock of premium tickets (which, as with airline tickets, now are being further stratified into categories within categories). Watch for legroom to be the next surcharge tacked on to the cost of seeing a live show. Possibly reserved washroom stalls at intermission, well why not?
The 2017 53-week calendar year also broke a record, with total sales of $1.64 billion; the previous 53-week year, 2012, had a total of $1.12 billion, according to the trade group Broadway League (which supplied all of the figures here, as usual). Last year’s regular 52-week calendar year total was $1.36 billion.
This year’s holiday season wasn’t all that great a leap over 2016. For the sake of comparison, the Christmas-New Year’s week, always the biggest on Broadway, topped out last year at $49.7 million. In 2015-16, it was $43 million; in 2014-15, $42.8 million; and in 2013-14, $38.8 million. Next year, when Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and Frozen will have joined the mix, abetted by hopefuls Mean Girls and Pretty Woman, this season’s figures could look like chump change.
Who cares? Well, the theater owners, for starters. Rent typically is 6% of the box office gross (this amount can vary, especially after recoupment). Let’s look at which landlords had the greatest windfalls last week:
The Shubert Organization (13 of 17 theaters booked)
A Bronx Tale $1,244,794
The Band’s Visit $1,564,647
Come From Away $1,834,218
Dear Evan Hansen $2,119,371
Farinelli & the King $875,369
Hello, Dolly! $2,464,573
Meteor Shower $1,112,555
Miss Saigon $1,451,229
Phantom Of The Opera $1,387,400
Play That Goes Wrong $707,316
School of Rock $1,878,857
Total gross $19,724,304
The Nederlander Organization (7 of 9 theaters booked)
Charlie/Chocolate Factory $2,054,877
The Lion King $3,099,930
SpongeBob SquarePants $1,456,848
Total gross: $17,045,882
Jujamcyn Theatres (4 of 5 theaters booked)
The Book Of Mormon $2,083,077
Home for the Holidays $79,125
Kinky Boots $1,526,720
Springsteen On Broadway $2,410,758
Total gross: $6,099,680
Roundabout Theatre Company (3 of 3 theaters booked)
Lithgow: Stories By Heart $291,613
Latin History For Morons $720,905
Total gross: $2,170,956
Ambassador Theatre Group (1 of 2 theaters booked)
The Parisian Woman $646,792
The Disney Company (1 theater)
Circle In The Square (1 theater)
Once On This Island $827,890
Lincoln Center Theater (1 theater)
Manhattan Theatre Club (1 theater)
The Children $236,202
What’s the takeaway from this blizzard of numbers? Well, a couple of figures splash some cold-water perspective over the noise of shattering box office records the publicists love to tout. For one thing, attendance actually is down over the same week last year, by almost 15%. And the average ticket across all shows cost $164.34, compared with $138.28 a year ago. None of this bodes well for diversity — of audiences as well as shows — over the long haul. Who’s thinking about that?
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