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B’way B.O. sinks 17.5%

'Annie' loses ammunition with Peters departing

Right on schedule, Broadway rolled over and nearly played dead in its first post-Labor Day session. Box office tumbled 17.5% — or $2,078,142 — to close at $9,715,298. It could have been worse — and has been.

A year ago to date, B.O. stood at $7,409,128 (for 22 shows), which represented a record low for 1999. Despite the decline in September 2000, business was worse the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6 when receipts hit $8,885,762.

Last week, all 22 shows playing regular performances declined, which included “Cats.” The longest-running show in Broadway history (7,469 perfs) dipped $1,520 before calling its last meow.

Everybody should have been so lucky.

‘Annie’ struggling

The previewing Cheryl Ladd took over for Bernadette Peters in “Annie Get Your Gun,” which translated into an astounding 46.9% decrease at the box office or, to put it more bluntly, a drop of $278,223. Total box office came to $314,792 on a gross potential of $790,214. Attendance rested at 54.92%.

A few shows saw weaker attendance figures. They included “Copenhagen” (47.79%), “Les Miserables” (50.04%), “Riverdance” (51.69%) and “Swing!” (39.87%).

Although not of the “Annie Get Your Gun” magnitude, seven other productions experienced vertiginous six-figure drops, ranging from “The Music Man” (down $164,440) to “Beauty and the Beast” (down $106,673). Somewhere in between were “Les Miserables” (down $107,359), “Saturday Night Fever” (down $109,412), “Swing!” (down $124,286), “Rent” (down $151,544) and “Riverdance” ($157,862).

Again, “The Lion King” sold out with “Aida” (91.73%) and “Contact” (96.51%) not far behind. Highest average ticket price was “Contact” at $73.83, with “Cats” going for $67.48.

Opening September 17, “The Best Man” put in a full week of previews. It amassed $305,437 on a gross potential of $628,187.

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