Broadway box office struck by strike

$1 billion mark in jeopardy

As Broadway braced itself for another week (at least) of darkened theaters while the stagehands strike continues, a collective shudder went through the legit community in anticipation of a Thanksgiving low on stuffing.

That lucrative holiday sesh last year hit $23.3 million and traditionally has been the second-highest-grossing week of the season, following the Christmas-New Year’s leg. The subtraction of that windfall from the picture seriously impacts the industry’s widely predicted chances of overtaking the $1 billion mark in annual grosses.

And with only eight of 35 productions still up and running since the stagehands’ walkout Nov. 10, last week’s tallies gave legiterati little to sing about.

Taking into account the estimated grosses for “Young Frankenstein” ($1.7 million), Rialto cume sank to about $4.6 million. Last year, the same frame hit $18.6 million with 32 shows on the boards.

On the other hand, the shows that were running last week — in theaters that have separate contracts with striking union Local One — made out pretty well. Particularly the tourist-friendly tuners.

The “Frank” estimate hit that impressive $1.7 million sum (almost up there with the record-breaking $1.8 million week reported by “Wicked” over the Christmas holiday last year) in a frame peppered with income-sapping second-night press perfs.

Both “Mary Poppins” ($1,122,801) and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” ($345,316) played to auds at around 99% of capacity. “Xanadu” ($385,715), playing to about 85% capacity, reported its highest weekly gross since beginning perfs this summer.

Meanwhile, the four plays running on the Rialto, all in nonprofit houses, didn’t pull in huge numbers.

“Mauritius” ($253,595) played to 92% capacity crowds in its penultimate week, while “The Ritz” ($306,227) attracted 82% capacity. Anomalously, sales for “Pygmalion” ($270,379) dipped a bit, sliding about $30,000.

“Cymbeline” ($249,728) — one of Shakespeare’s least recognized titles — continued its preview perfs at Lincoln Center Theater with auds at 70% of potential.

As the strike grinds on into its second full week, legiters continue to speculate about how long the producers’ $20 million war chest can sustain inoperative shows, particularly those whose grosses have been struggling. Many observers are anticipating that even if curtains go up again soon after Thanksgiving, vulnerable shows may be forced by the loss of income to hasten their closing announcements, leaving a lot more theaters dark before the holidays are over.

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