Year ends with record $13.9 mil week

NEW YORK – This year’s holiday season is one for the record books on Broadway, with the traditional boon between Thanksgiving and the New Year rising to new heights. The record for a single week set during the last week of 1995 ($12.9 million) was surpassed during the week ending Dec. 29 with a breathtaking $13.9 million take.

The holiday bounty is thanks in no small measure to illusionist David Copperfield, who conjured more than $1 million for each of five weeks at the Martin Beck, ending Dec. 29. Though the sleight of hand lay in playing up to 16 performances a week compared to the average eight for Broadway productions, “David Copperfield: Dreams and Nightmares” helped to propel the season’s total B.O. to an unprecedented $294 million so far – 10% higher than the season total at this time last year.

Raises across the boards

Last week’s $13,926,935 Broadway take beats out the record of $12,907,171 set during the week ending Dec. 31, 1995, with every show but one seeing increases of up to 40% over the previous week. “Les Miserables” set a house record at the Imperial with its $720,504 take, and “Miss Saigon” increased nearly twofold over the previous week with its $784,679 haul.

The holidays were good for shows on the road, too, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical, ”Whistle Down the Wind,” in its pre-Broadway tryout run at the National Theater in Washington. It set a house record with its $740,073 take for the Christmas week, despite a generally negative reception from D.C. critics. The show eclipsed a $705,000 mark set by ”Les Miserables” last spring, only to be outdone by ”Damn Yankees,” playing across town at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, which just raked in an impressive $933,515 – the highest gross yet for the Jerry Lewis starrer.

Canuck tuners up

Two new musicals playing tryout runs in Toronto also shared the holiday bounty: Livent Inc.’s “Ragtime” at the Ford Center netted $20,000 over its potential with a C$814,008 ($626,160) take during Christmas week, and Mirvish’s “Jane Eyre” at the Royal Alexandra was also over potential with a C$430,712 ($331,317) haul. Advance ticket sales for the Toronto shows are way up, according to producers, contributing to the hope that the holidays will spill over into the period before spring openings, traditionally the season’s leanest months.

(Mira Friedlander and Paul Harris contributed to this report.)

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