B’Way B.O. leaves the best for last

$14.9 mil holiday week was 1999's most successful

What a difference a New Year’s Eve performance makes: Broadway set a record for 1999 during the holiday week, but failed to top last year’s all-time high of $17,271,539 for Week 31 (Dec. 28, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999).

Nor did it topple the $15,776,122 earned two years ago during the same time frame (Dec. 29, 1997-Jan. 4, 1998).

Last week, 32 shows earned an estimated $14.9 million, which did manage to top the year’s previous high of $14,192,990 the week of Nov. 22-28, 1999. (With the Disney org closed Jan. 3, “The Lion King” gross could only be estimated; however, the sold-out tuner has always met, if not slightly surpassed, its $1,021,496 gross potential.)

Attendance was off by over 50,000 from previous years. In 1999-2000’s Week 31, it stood at 230,336, down from 287,248 in 1998-99 and 282,380 in 1997-98.

Of course, the downturn had much to do with Broadway’s being dark the evening of Dec. 31, with most shows opting to perform on either Monday evening or Thursday afternoon in order to avoid the Times Square hordes. Obviously, there is no substitute for New Year’s Eve, especially come the millennium.

On the bright side, almost all shows improved from Christmas week 1999. The two exceptions were “Jackie Mason,” which dipped an insignificant $2,403, due to heavily comped previews. “The Rainmaker” gave a mere five perfs, and so dropped $36,111.

“Chicago” added a ninth performance, after playing only seven the previous week, and as a result registered the biggest jump: $226,420. For the first time, “Saturday Night Fever” met and bettered its gross potential of $901,190. It rose $207,660 for a sizzling final of $902,194.

In her final week, Liza’s “Minnelli on Minnelli” sold out and in the process also broke its gross potential ($626,098), climbing $209,827 for a close of $630,503.

Other mega increases were scored by “Cats” ($179,467), “Footloose” ($187,217), “Les Miserables” ($186,366), “Miss Saigon” ($182,770) and “The Phantom of the Opera” ($200,887).

Still in previews, “James Joyce’s The Dead” came alive, increasing $93,627. It’s final $276,001 stood against a $451,168 gross potential. The musical played 68.24% capacity, with the average ticket at $50.76.

Of the new shows, “Kiss Me, Kate” continued to charm, nearly meeting its gross potential of $771,039. It rose $63,880 to arrive at $766,825, playing 98.44% capacity.

“Putting It Together” scored the smallest increase of the week: The Sondheim revue found another $12,426 to close at $237,815 against a $503,398 gross potential It played 52.19% cap.

Love it or leave it alone, New Year’s Eve and its attendant hordes in Times Square will not disturb Broadway producers for at least two years. In 2000 and 2001, the festive date falls on Sunday and then Monday — nights that Broadway prefers to leave dark anyway.

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