NEW YORK – A lot of angels must be getting a lot of wings. With holiday tourism in New York on a winning streak, cash registers for the city’s Christmas shows are ringing louder and faster than ever.
“A Christmas Carol,” the big-scale musical in its third year at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, grossed $2.3 million for the week ending Dec. 15, MSG execs say. The show, this year starring Tony Randall and Ben Vereen, has neared its $2.5 million potential each week, marking increases of 30% or more over last year’s weekly takes.
The casting of a star – Randall – in the Scrooge role is only partly responsible for the ticket-selling upsurge. A broader marketing campaign also has paid off: When “Carol” debuted in 1994, MSG relentlessly plugged the show’s Broadway talent backstage.
But this year’s campaign completed a trend initiated last year, as producers moved toward a wider, less theater-savvy audience. “This year we went even further, to go as mainstream as possible,” producer Tim Hawkins said. Suburban print and radio campaigns were the order of the season. It also didn’t hurt that “Carol” snagged three tie-in sponsors that any Broadway producer would wrestle a reindeer for: Diet Coke, American Express and McDonald’s.
A leg up for Radio City
Meanwhile, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which has been a tradition in New York since the Nativity, was expected to hit the 1 million attendance mark over the Dec. 21 weekend, the earliest ever for the show, and the Rockettes still have three weeks left to kick up more business. (By comparison, MSG’s “Carol” is expected to attract about 400,000 ticket-buyers this year, up from about 300,000 last Christmas). Radio City grosses should easily surpass last year’s $41 million.
Next year, Detroit and Los Angeles will receive their own Radio City spectaculars, joining Branson, Mo., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., in RC’s outward-bound program. The company also has been scouting sites in Minneapolis and Chicago.