Economy to blame for box office slide

Broadway sales slipped last week — and, perhaps more worryingly, so did attendance when compared with recent years.

Weekly receipts fell about $750,000 to $17.2 million for 29 shows on the boards (or $17.9 million including estimates for “Young Frankenstein”). That $17.2 million total is higher than the $16.8 million logged during the same frame in 2007, but less than the $17.7 million reported in 2006 (with 30 productions running).

In what some industry watchers will likely be tempted to interpret as a repercussion of the economic downturn, attendance slid more than 8,500 to 218,213. That figure doesn’t include theatergoers who turned out for “Young Frankenstein,” but even if it did, it wouldn’t boost attendance to the 235,000 to 240,000 range posted during the same sesh in both 2007 and 2006.

Despite the Rialto-wide drop, some shows managed to successfully swim upstream — particularly straight plays.

Revival and Katie Holmes starrer “All My Sons” ($739,652) logged its biggest numbers so far, as did “The Seagull” ($554,417), starring Kristin Scott Thomas. “A Man for All Seasons” ($291,181) bumped up by more than $70,000, and even in its heavily comped opening week, “Speed-the-Plow” ($412,872) managed to climb by about $45,000,

Meanwhile, tuner “Billy Elliot” brought in a whopping $864,793 in a week of six previews, up from five per sesh over the past few frames. That puts “Billy” at No. 6 in the top 10 — behind “South Pacific” ($920,904) but ahead of fellow musicals “In the Heights” ($794,948), “The Phantom of the Opera” ($737,900), “The Little Mermaid” ($715,977) and “Mary Poppins” ($670,876).

Many of the dips at individual shows were in the $35,000 or less range, with a few large declines restricted mostly to shows that could afford it, including “The Lion King” (down more than $100,000 to $1,078,472) and “Mamma Mia!” (off about $70,000 to $982,406). “Equus” ($623,280) dropped more than $80,000.

The only show to bow last week was the Lincoln Center Theater offering “Dividing of the Estate,” which took in $109,674 for its first four previews at the Booth Theater.

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