Musicals Kick Broadway Box Office Into Spring With $3.8M Boost

Matthew Murphy

Music is in the air as the Broadway roster fills up with new shows, especially the tuners that have been circling the airspace over Times Square looking to land as close as possible to the April 27 Tony Awards cut-off date. Four new shows began previews last week, including two big new musicals that enjoyed strong breaks from the starting gate.

Polk & Co.

Amélie, with Hamilton star Phillipa Soo in the title role played by Audrey Tatou in the 2001 indie film about a young Paris woman with a Clara Bow cut and a heart of gold, played four previews at Jujamcyn Theatres’ Walter Kerr Theatre. Ticket sales of $377K were a solid 75% of potential, with nearly every seat filled, at an average price of $104.24. War Paint, in which Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole play cosmetics czarinas Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, respectively, played seven previews at the Nederlander Theatre, taking in $800.5K, 72% of potential and filling 91% of the seats. It’s worth noting that both shows are following the trend of musicals playing smaller houses – 927 seats at the Kerr, 1,168 at the Nederlander – that continues to put the squeeze on non-musicals angling for a Broadway berth. The result, especially when a show is a hit, is a scarcity market that inevitably leads to higher ticket prices and a reduced flow of new shows to the Broadway marketplace. Prime examples: The Book Of Mormon (Eugene O’Neill, 1,066 seats) and Dear Evan Hansen (Music Box, 984 seats).

Conversely, a revival of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter led by Kevin Kline is opening at Jujamcyn’s St. James, though for a limited run before the legendary 1,710-seat musical house closes for renovations in anticipation of the Disney stage adaptation of Frozen. (The seating has been reduced to 1,400 for Present Laughter). In his first two previews, Kline & Co. took in $255K, playing to 92% of capacity at an average ticket price of $99.46. Over at the Shubert Organization’s venerable 914-seat Lyceum, The Play That Goes Wrong, a British comedy that arrives with a boatload of guffaws, played four previews to 92% full houses; a promotion reduced the average ticket price to $55.35 and the gross to $187K, 57% of potential.

Two shows opened last week, both of them seriously dividing the critics. Sam Gold’s radically stripped-down revival of The Glass Menagerie with Sally Field opened at the Shuberts’ Belasco to a scathing notice from the New York Times‘ Ben Brantley (though big thumbs up from Deadline, Newsday and New York magazine, among others). The show grossed about half its $925K potential and filled about 90% of the seats at an average price of $61.03.

Brantley (along with Deadline and the Washington Post‘s Peter Marks) praised Come From Away, the folksy musical set in the Newfoundland town of Gander, where some 7,000 flight passengers and crew were diverted on the morning of 9/11, and on-site observation suggests the upbeat show will benefit from great word of mouth. At the Shuberts’ Schoenfeld, it sold $632K worth of tickets, 58% of potential, but went SRO at an average price of $74.57. Look for even more good press next week when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes in the show.

Total ticket sales during Week 42 of the 2016-2017 Broadway season were $27.67 million for 32 shows, a hike of $3.8 million, or 16%, over the previous week, according to the trade group Broadway League. Average ticket price for all shows also was up, to $108.33 from $105.31. The top-grossing show was Hamilton, $3.15 million, up $310K from the week before, with an average ticket price of $292.48. The producer of Hamilton, Jeffrey Seller, announced Monday that a second national tour of the megahit will go out next year.

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