'Frankie' fuels August's robust box office

The Broadway obits will just have to wait.

For the second week in a row, box office as well as paid-attendance figures set records for the new millennium during the early August time frame. While B.O. jumped $1,037,551, or 7.56%, over the previous session, the $14,762,238 in total receipts and 244,977 paid-attendance mark easily broke through the levels of 2001 ($12.83 million, 221,106) and 2000 ($12.69 million, 227,408).

Clearly, the 30 current productions outnumber the 26 shows of 2001 and the 24 of 2000. But it’s not simply a case of more shows, more dollars. August 2002 can claim two new hits in “Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune” and “Hairspray” as well as two new Broadway stars with Michael C. Hall in “Chicago” and Joey Fatone in “Rent.”

Last week also saw the closing of “Topdog/Underdog,” which momentarily displaced “The Graduate” as the top-grossing play on Broadway. Up $145,416 and at 99.8% capacity, the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama left Broadway with its best session to date: $404,276.

Hall last performed on Broadway as the emcee in “Cabaret,” in 1999-2000. Then came “Six Feet Under” and the kind of newfound celebrity that has packed the long-running Kander & Ebb revival. Hall’s entry last week produced a huge $121,680 increase for “Chicago,” which grossed $497,394.

Fatone brought his ‘N Sync fans with him to “Rent,” creating a $105,144 bonanza. The rocker musical grossed $459,337, its highest numbers for the year.

Up $24,252, “Hairspray” continued its climb to hit status, playing to 95.8% capacity and racking in $722,688 in total receipts. The John Waters-based musical will open Thursday.

Rave reviews for Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci in “Frankie and Johnny” helped the production defy the usual opening-week slump. Terrence McNally’s play shot up $44,286 despite heavily comped press performances. Final count came to $312,120 with an enviable $53.39 average ticket price, the second highest on Broadway (after “The Graduate”) for a play. The “F&J” producers report a plus-$500,000 wrap for the three-day weekend.

Speaking of nude vehicles, “The Graduate,” with Kathleen Turner, reversed its downward trend of the past two weeks, taking in $9,560 more to close with $375,407.

Overall, only three of the 30 shows took a dip. “Mostly Sondheim” went from two to one perf at Lincoln Center, which essentially halved its final gross to $37,683. “Mamma Mia!” dropped an insignificant $4,244 and still sold out.

Much more significant, “I’m Not Rappaport” slipped $8,945 to close with only $96,520, its gross potential looming far overhead at $416,791.

The Tony battle behind them, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” had its best week to date ($921,944), while “Urinetown” enjoyed its highest-grossing nonholiday session ($355,464) since opening in September.

Elsewhere, musicals below the B.O. top 10 saw several five-figure jumps that contributed to higher-than-usual tallies: “Cabaret” ($441,582), “Contact” ($287,017), “The Full Monty” ($389,284), “Into the Woods” ($493,118) and “Les Miserables” ($428,710).

That Sept. 15 closing notice for “Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” may have helped. Up $37,016, the Rhea Perlman starrer produced $281,076. Somewhat less spectacular five-figure upticks burnished final numbers for “The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?” ($178,450), “Noises Off” ($218,090) and “Proof” ($216,292).

“The Lion King” and “The Producers” joined “Mamma Mia!” in the sold-out column.

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