Biz weathering blizzard

Snow & show both go on as Gotham chills

The “Daredevil” B.O. wasn’t the only casualty of Mother Nature’s splashy East Coast tour.

Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera” missed a perf for just the second time in 15 years, power outages cut TV ratings, and today’s high-profile USC confab on media ownership rules has been canceled.

With air traffic paralyzed up and down the East Coast, it quickly became clear that FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps wouldn’t be able to make today’s public forum. Same went for New York-based network execs who were skedded to attend.

Event was to be held at USC’s Center for Communication Law & Policy, which wanted the FCC to hear firsthand from both sides of the issue. The agency is considering whether to relax rules governing the broadcast biz. Reps for USC said they would attempt to reschedule.

Movie theaters throughout the East were socked hard by the storm, which shut down much of the Northeast with blinding, windblown snow that piled as much as four feet deep, drastically limiting movie ticket sales on Sunday and Monday. Film distribs and box office trackers said it wasn’t entirely clear how much business might be salvaged Monday once snow-clearing crews hit the streets.

“It’s a tough one to project,” said Dan Marks, exec veep at B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

For the most part, it was housebound patrons not showing up rather than theaters going dark that accounted for the slippage in East Coast B.O.

Broadway tries today

A spokesman for Broadway’s “Phantom” said that much of the show’s crew lived in New Jersey and “could only be assembled with great difficulty, if at all.”

A Monday blizzard also shuttered the tuner on Jan. 8, 1996, as it did a handful of other shows. Back then, only “Grease” performed and its producer, Barry Weissler, served hot chocolate in the lobby to a soldout audience.

As of Monday afternoon, Ticketmaster and Telecharge reported that all other shows skedded to perform that night planned to raise their curtains. They included “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Mamma Mia!” “Medea,” “Rent” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Broadway’s other 19 productions were never listed to perform; Monday is traditionally an off night for Gotham legit.

Producers can be thankful that Monday’s blizzard did not develop a day or two earlier to K.O. weekend biz, which appears to have been boffo despite the terrorist alert, the economy and the frigid temperatures.

D.C. snow follies

In Washington, the relentless snowstorm made life difficult even for President Bush, who was at Camp David when the storm hit Sunday morning. The president decided to return to Washington earlier than expected, but flying conditions were so dismal that the presidential helicopter was grounded, meaning Bush had to endure the 2½-hour trip back on Sunday in a vehicle convoy preceded by snow plows.

The storm didn’t stop National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice from turning up at NBC studios in Washington for the taping of the Sunday gabber “Meet the Press.” Had the show started just an hour later, Rice’s visit would have been scrubbed.

Ratings dampened

Although Mid-Atlantic and Gotham residents stayed home in droves Sunday, there was no discernible spike in primetime viewing as the evening’s percentage of homes using television (65.6) was only slightly higher than the previous week (65.0), according to Nielsen.

But many people were unable to watch TV as the storm left more than a quarter of a million homes and businesses without power.

Daily Variety did not publish a Gotham edition Tuesday due to the storm.

(Carl DiOrio, Dave McNary and Rick Kissell in Los Angeles and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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