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B’way B.O. slump

Spring rain, tourist dearth dampen ticket sales

Despite recent excitement and media saturation of the Tony nominations, the legit season found itself in a post-Easter holiday/pre-summer funk last week. Broadway took in a total of $11,986,748 to finish last week down $505,999 from the previous week.

“It’s typical actually, it’s totally the season,” said Hal Luftig, a producer of “High Society.” He added, “We’re in that weird time when no one’s traveling.”

Slow summer climb

Luftig had little to lament: His show, despite tepid reviews, is doing well, and last week was one of the few to finish up over the previous, taking in $435,466. Luftig predicted that the Broadway boards would experience a “slow climb through June, and an explosion in August.” Luftig said that despite rumors and speculation, “High Society” is making a profit and is not going to close this summer.

But Luftig’s musical was the exception this week, with most shows posting declines over the previous. “Cats” the longrunning tourist barometer, dropped $21,039, to gross $362,642.

Waiting for tourists

” ‘Cats,’ because it caters to the tourists, is probably continually heading down until the summer tours come in,” said Roy Gabay, a producer of both “Honour” and “A View From the Bridge.” He added, “But you’re not going to see that same pattern with (drama) ‘The Beauty Queen of Leenane,’ which targets a much more urbane, metropolitan audience. But I would bet that ‘Cats’ would follow the hotel occupancy rates.”

Sure enough, big, “tour-bus-and-passport” musicals all were down: “1776” fell $69,193 to take $272,014; “Beauty and the Beast” dropped $52,882 to rake in $540,077; “Miss Saigon” slipped $50,161, to gross $416,835; and “Les Miserables” fell $17,169 to $488,264.

Rain dampens B’way

For now though, despite the recent spate of Tony nominations, the incessantly rainy weather has been playing hell with marginally successful shows.

“Logically speaking, would you want to be waiting out in the rain? It really hurts shows, particularly shows that are dependent on last-minute buys,” said one insider.

Indeed, despite Tony nominations, “Honour” and “A View From the Bridge” both dropped from the previous week. “Honour,” with two best actress nominations, still fell $22,675 to $81,918. “View,” with nominations for best play and director (among others), tumbled $51,368 to $173,014.

“In a sense, Tony nominations almost hurt the marginal shows, because they do little to sell the show, and then you have almost a moral obligation to take out expensive ads saying that you’re nominated. It’s no good for the bottom line,” said one producer.

However, some shows that were doing brisk business to start with were unfazed by the weather or the season. “Art” increased its take over last week by $18,918 to $413,289. “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” upped its take marginally by $3,561 to $316,783. The biggest gainer among plays was the Tony-overlooked David Hare legiter, “The Judas Kiss,” which nonetheless managed to climb $30,717 for a haul of $375,057.

For tuners, the only good news was at “Phantom of the Opera,” which posted $31,350 over the previous week, taking in $712,458.

The ‘Jerry Factor’

Still, even if the weather clears, several producers say there’s still concern about what they call the “Jerry Factor.”

“I’m dying to see what business will be on Thursday, the night of the ‘Seinfeld’ finale,” said Gabay. He, like many other producers, is setting his VCR. The crowds, he fears, may opt to stay home on the couch.

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