B'w'y B.O. strong, but crunch time looming

Boffo numbers, heavy doubts.

With total receipts at $17,153,306, Broadway produced its second highest grossing non-holiday week, as total tally fell just $438,243 or 2.49%, from the previous record-setting session. Paid attendance dropped a mere 1.93%, to 261,900

So much for the good news. With an unseasonally high 34 shows on the boards, attention must turn to two big questions: How many productions are running at or just above their breakeven? And with so much competition, which productions will survive the B.O. drought of January-February? Plays, as always, look especially vulnerable.

Non-musical fare presented a split report card last week.

Six gained: “Def Poetry Jam” ($133,336), “Dinner at Eight” ($259,653), “Frankie and Johnny” ($475,445), “Medea” ($124,017), “Tartuffe” ($183,534) and “Our Town” ($389,836), which set another house record at the Booth.

Seven plays took a B.O. dip, in some cases below their respective breakevens: “The Goat” ($216,967 in its final session), “The Graduate” ($269,747), “Hollywood Arms” ($116,963), “Metamorphoses” ($131,645), “Proof” ($175,763), “Say Goodnight Gracie” ($138,659) and “Imaginary Friends” ($278,420), which fell only $34,283 despite a heavily comped opening-night week and mixed reviews.

With so many new musical productions, “Aida” ($634,661) fell off the top 10 list for the first time since opening in March 2000. Disney’s sister show “Beauty and the Beast” ($643,275) edged it out to keep the No. 10 slot.

The critically tortured “Dance of the Vampires” also slid from the B.O. list after a seven-week run in previews on the top 10. Premiere comps took a $92,195 slice from its opening-week numbers, with a sanguine $641,839 gathered from the subsequent seven regular perfs.

Also under the top 10, “Les Miserables” was the sole musical to build on the previous session’s numbers. Up $8,998, it grew to $546,441. “Cabaret” and “Rent” were off about $1,000 each to produce respective totals of $382,772 and $467,548. Otherwise, “Chicago” ($493,851), “Into the Woods” ($394,297), “Phantom of the Opera” ($540,411) and “Urinetown” ($292,018) each dropped a middling five figures. Down a more significant $77,510, “Flower Drum Song” brought in $488,635, its lowest grossing session to date.

“Oklahoma!,” the current yo-yo of Broadway shows, plunged $168,972 for what was the biggest drop of the week. The Rodgers & Hammerstein revival grossed $596,932.

Newly ensconced in the top 10, “La Boheme” ($766,167) and “Man of La Mancha” ($713,207) made for an intriguing combo in their first full week of regular perfs.

Despite press hysteria over the Baz Luhrmann outing, the two shows came in with surprisingly similar grosses. The opera’s uptick of $253,500 easily dwarfed the musical revival’s $103,192, but then the Puccini had more room to grow at its significantly larger venue, the Broadway Theater. As of last week, “Man” enjoyed the higher cap (84.9% to 81%) and average-price ticket ($73.81 to $69.32). As always, time will tell all.

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