After weeks of record biz, the other shoe finally dropped on Broadway. In fact, both shoes must have dropped last week.
Labor Day week, never a pretty B.O. picture, was truly ugly this year. Twenty-two shows brought in a mere $8,857,738. (“The Boys From Syracuse,” which grossed $260,141 the previous session, did not report figures for last week.)
Those low numbers break the pattern of the past six weeks when B.O. and paid attendance (only 142,379 last week, down 38% from the previous session) outpaced the previous two summers.
Labor Day-week receipts in 2001 and 2000 came in at $9.6 million and $9.5 million, respectively, when there were also 23 shows on the boards.
The NFL kickoff and Rosh Hashanah coupled with the usual back-to-school blues added to the staggering $5,246,049 dropoff, down 37.2% from the previous session. Traditionally, the decrease is about 20%.
Last week, a hefty debit of $1.6 million was due to four shows that closed Sept. 1 and another, “The Goat,” which suspended production for 10 days.
As for the NFL effect on Sept. 5’s box office, the League of American Theaters and Producers reported a 20% decline in paid admissions from the corresponding date a year ago. TKTS sold 1,300 in discount tix for Sept. 5 this year, down a critical 1,900 from 2001.
But maybe it was just a bummer week. Period. Several spokesmen for Broadway shows told Daily Variety that receipts did not vary significantly from Sept. 4 to Sept. 5.
Rosh Hashanah, however, which usually arrives in the second half of the month, appears to have KO’d biz over the entire weekend, with Saturday-night performances especially hard hit.
Daily Variety estimates indicate that fewer than nine shows broke even last week; the other 15 lost a total of $2 million.
Only “Hairspray” managed to go clean and increase its gross from the previous week. Up $1,818, the brand-new tuner brought in $866,565. Those numbers together with the slightly diminished mega-grosses of “The Lion King” ($1,078,391), “Mamma Mia!” ($928,007), and “The Producers” ($1,038,491) made for a staggering, not to mention unhealthy, 44.15% of all receipts on Broadway last week.
Not all top-grossing shows withstood last week’s shock to the box office. Sustaining plummets of plus-$300,000 each, “42nd Street” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” saw their respective receipts fade to $399,685 and $538,192.
In comparison, the $57,964 drop for “Frankie and Johnny” looks like an uptick. The Terrence McNally two-hander produced a still-phenomenal $386,365, which was good enough to land it on the B.O. Top 10 for the first time. Also, “Cabaret” dropped only $66,834 to maintain a still-profitable gross of $365,137.
But how bad was biz, really?
Last week, six-figure free-falls put the total receipts for “Aida” ($413,878), “Beauty and the Beast” ($297,640), “Chicago” ($224,701), “Proof” ($128,758) and “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” ($164,232) under what those shows produced during the scary, turbulent week of Sept. 17-23, 2001.
A few shows, despite six-figure drops, improved slightly on last year’s numbers from that time period: “Les Miserables” ($212,190), “The Phantom of the Opera” ($359,610), “Rent” ($257,710) and “Urinetown” ($207,349), which opened Sept. 20, 2001.
Elsewhere, several newer shows did their worst business to date for regular perfs: “The Graduate” ($236,945), “Into the Woods” ($172,924), “Metamorphoses” ($129,160) and “Oklahoma” ($392,564). Add to that list “I’m Not Rappaport,” which took in a mere $59,244 in its final week.