B’way season opens with record $17 mil

'Spamalot,' 'Caesar' maintain B.O. draw

On the eve of the Tony Awards, Broadway reported a record $17,031,439 for May 30 – June 5, the first wee of the new season. Although that represents a drop of $907,679, 5.06%, from the previous session, it easily tops last year’s $14.01 million and 2003’s $13.4 million for the time frame.

Paid attendance came to 251,840, 15,000-20,000 better than the past two years.

Like the hyper-rich, superhits continue to expand with added dollars. “Monty Python’s Spamalot” ($926,192) and “Julius Caesar” ($674,385) saw five-figure gains to set house records at, respectively, the Shubert and the Belasco.

The Monty Python show especially benefited from the end of Tony voter comps. Shows that opened later in the season, like “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” took a hit last week from a deluge of such freebies. On Monday, the “Spamalot” producers reported their advance at more than $29 million, up $2 million from the previous week.

Prefiguring its half-dozen Tony wins, “The Light in the Piazza” ($454,363) gained $37,767 in a week that saw 25 of Broadway’s 34 shows slipping at the box office.

Reporting much smaller gains were “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” ($790,946); “Beauty and the Beast” ($643,722); “Steel Magnolias” ($202,111); and “After the Night and the Music” ($159,440), which upticked $3,841 during its preem week.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” ($296,506) jumped $60,347, but that increase had more to do with its eight perfs, up from the previous week’s six, than any stampede at the B.O.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” ($276,629), on the other hand, went from seven to eight and fell $29,530 despite the added perf.

Other revivals also were down, including Tony winner “Glengarry Glen Ross” ($404,024), off $32,755, 7.5%. Teetering on the edge, “The Glass Menagerie” ($175,969) fell $33,934, 16.2%, to produce its lowest numbers to date. Off $24,042, 9.8%, “On Golden Pond” ($220,902) was less severely affected by the overall decline.

Steep slides

Elsewhere under the top 10, there were scary six-figure plunges at “Sweet Charity” ($464,826); “Chicago” ($404,473); and “La Cage aux Folles” ($269,870), off $113,976 to put in its weakest numbers to date. Can its Tony win for musical revival prevent further B.O. erosion?

Sizable five-figure dips sliced the receipts at “Fiddler on the Roof” ($402,989); “Avenue Q” ($431,305); “Movin’ Out” ($411,786); and “Rent” ($326,947), down $58,385.

By comparison, “All Shook Up” ($462,433) took a minor $13,943 hit, but continued to play at 70% capacity, its average-price ticket stuck at $48.42.

After setting house records, “Doubt” ($510,760), “The Pillowman” ($392,770) and “Spelling Bee” ($383,803), all Tony winners, made minor retreats at the box office.

Still in previews, “The Constant Wife” ($233,596) went from four to eight perfs, and had another $117,381 to show for it.

Billy Crystal had his first week out of the top 10. Putting in a mere four perfs, “700 Sundays” ($497,629) slipped $99,288 after doing five the previous week.

The 21 musicals grossed $12,895,980 for 75.7% of the Broadway total, with attendance of 189,443 at 80.0% of capacity.

The 13 plays grossed $4,135,459 for 24.3% of the Broadway total, with attendance of 62,397 at 68.3% of capacity.

Average ticket prices were $68.07 for musicals, $66.28 for plays, and $67.63 for all shows.

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