Broadway’s Best Year: 2018 Closes Out At $1.8B; ‘Potter’, ‘Mockingbird’, ‘Chicago’ Among Holiday Week Record-Setters

To Kill A Mockingbird
Julieta Cervantes

With record-breaking newcomers like To Kill A Mockingbird, Network and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child joining long-running stalwarts including Chicago, Wicked and The Lion King in smashing various year-end weekly box office records, Broadway finished 2018 with bragging rights of its own: The calendar year was the industry’s best attended and highest grossing on record, scoring a huge $1.825 billion in grosses.

The figure bested even the 53-week 2017’s $1.637 billion. (The first 52 performing weeks of 2017 took in $1.587 billion). The total for 2016 was $1.367 billion, and for 2015 $1.354 billion.

In all, Broadway productions drew 14.37 million attendees during 2018, topping 2017’s previous record setters of 13.74 million (53 weeks) and 13.43 million (52 weeks).

The year ended on a fittingly high note, with the 39 Broadway productions grossing a combined $57,807,272 for the tourist-stuffed Christmas week ending Dec. 30, a 41% jump over the previous week’s $41 million. Attendance for the week (technically, Week 31 of the Broadway season) was 378,910, about 23% more than the previous week.

That discrepancy in percentages (box office receipts versus attendance) points to ticket price: The average seat during the big holiday week was $153, a full $20 more expensive than the previous week’s $133.

“Harry Potter…” manuel harlan

Every one of the 39 productions saw increased revenue for the week, with 20 productions taking full advantage of the holiday influx by squeezing in an extra performance (expect a falling-to-earth in next week’s report). More than a few shows smashed records. Most were house records, but some were for the Broadway history books: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the two-part stunner that premiered in London, took in $2,525,850 at the 1,622-seat Lyric Theatre, a Broadway record for weekly ticket grosses for a play. Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the 1,435-seat Shubert Theatre grossed $1,701,684, a record for an American play.

The ever-powerful Hamilton grossed $4,041,493, becoming the first Broadway production to top the $4 million mark. Average ticket price for the week was $375.

The National Theatre production of Network broke its own previous house record at the Belasco with $1,367,013.

“Frozen” Deen Van Meer

Also breaking house records at their respective theaters were three Disney musicals – Aladdin ($2,584,549) Frozen ($2,624,495and The Lion King ($3,696,974).

Mean Girls did the same at the August Wilson, taking in $1,994,386. Wicked, a Broadway draw since 2003, broke its own $3.3M house record at the Gershwin Theater, grossing $3,411,819. Chicago, Broadway’s longest running American musical (in town since 1996), finished its best grossing year with $1,247,277.

The Illusionists – Magic Of The Holidays added morning performances to its roster, conjuring $2,978,349 for no fewer than 16 performances at the Marquis. With a six-week tally of $8.4M, producers are calling it the best-selling magic show in Broadway history. The limited engagement ended Dec. 30.

“Ruben & Clay…” Mark Hill

And closing out a limited holiday run was Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show, the American Idol re-teaming that seemed to have more letters in its title than coins in its coffers. The variety-style revue took in $163,429 for nine performances, a grinchy 11% of potential.

Also leaving town was Summer, the Donna Summer jukebox musical at the Lunt-Fontanne, hitting a notably stronger-than-recently-usual $1M for its final nine performances, with attendance of 10,343 at 78% of capacity.

Other Broadway notables for the week:

  • The Ferryman had its best week since opening in October, grossing $1,037,447;
  • Choir Boy, the coming-of-age drama by Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, continued its previews, grossing $258,754, with attendance of 4,428 at 87% of capacity. A modest $58 average ticket price kept the gross at about 41% of potential. Opening night is Jan. 8;
  • True West, the revival of the Sam Shepard classic starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano, began previews Dec. 27 at the American Airlines Theatre, taking $278,727, about 72% of potential for the four performances, with strong attendance of 2,906 at 98% of capacity. The play opens Jan. 24.

Season to date, Broadway hit $1.13B in its Week 31, an 18% bump over last year at this time. Attendance of 8,752,309 marks an 11% increase year to year.

All figures courtesy of the trade group Broadway League.

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