Lack of tourists brings down receipts

Broadway experienced a pre-Thanksgiving lull last week, with few tourists in town to help boost box office.

Only a handful of shows managed to buck the downward trend — and they were straight plays, which tend to cater to local auds more than out-of-towners.

Two well-reviewed revivals saw the most notable bumps, with “Speed-the-Plow” ($554,039) climbing by $40,000 (and breaking the house record for a straight play at the Barrymore Theater) and “The Seagull” ($529,382) up by more than $20,000.

Otherwise, though, sales mostly slowed. Total receipts fell about $500,000 to $16.6 million for 33 shows on the boards, or $17.2 million including estimates for “Young Frankenstein.”

Fresh off critical raves following its Nov. 13 opening, “Billy Elliot” ($793,077) saw its tally slide in a frame of only seven shows, including press perfs and the heavily comped opening. But few believe “Billy” producers have much cause for concern — it’s said the show’s post-opening wraps topped $1 million in individual ticket sales (although a rep for the musical wouldn’t confirm it).

Biggest drops were seen at the tuners most likely to cater to tourist and family crowds, including “Mary Poppins” ($578,445) and “Grease” ($367,039), both down more than $100,000 each, and “The Lion King” ($896,036), which logged a dip near the higher limit of five figures.

Two newer offerings, “In the Heights” ($695,754) and “13” ($206,742), dropped more than $80,000 each.

The previewing “Shrek the Musical” ($549,005) played its first sesh of seven perfs with auds averaging a bit less than 60% of capacity. Middling start suggests ticket buyers may be waiting for reviews to pull out their wallets.

New addition “White Christmas,” on the other hand, brought in $565,269 with five previews, playing to auds at about 86% capacity. With just a seven-week limited run to recoup, the show needs every penny.

Also joining the fall fray is the Roundabout’s revival of “Pal Joey” ($207,099), attracting crowds at 90% of potential.

Box office is expected to be slow again this week — and then the following frame is Thanksgiving, which legiters see as the real bellwether of the effects of the economic downturn on Rialto grosses.

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