Popular musical has biggest-selling week in history

Santa brought box office presents to many — but not all — Broadway shows last week, with enduring juggernaut “Wicked” ($2,092,745) already breaking the record it set over Thanksgiving for the top grossing week in Rialto history.

The Christmas tally for “Wicked” was less than $10,000 more than the Turkey Day total, but it was still enough to set a new high-water mark for the Main Stem. Right behind “Wicked,” “The Lion King” ($1,714,566) set a house record for the Minskoff Theater.

Big-name tourist-attracting tuners — including old fave “The Phantom of the Opera” ($1,248,943) and up-and-down offering “Shrek the Musical” ($1,055,261) — were generally the productions to post major bumps. The recently opened revival of “A Little Night Music” ($985,662), fueled by the star power of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, once again logged excellent biz while “In the Heights” ($895,479) saw receipts leap up by a whopping 53%.

Closely-watched new tuner “Fela!” ($695,310) continued to show signs of staying power, climbing by about $125,000 (or 22%) and playing to robust crowds of 96% capacity.

But despite the bounty lavished on some shows, others were left out of the holiday upticks. As was the case during the Thanksgiving frame, some shows, many of them well-reviewed, still haven’t cultivated high enough profiles to attract large crowds of tourists.

Chief among these last week was musical revival “Ragtime” ($616,303), up by around $75,000 playing to houses at 63% of capacity. Another revival, “Finian’s Rainbow” ($580,255), pulled in auds of just 53%.

As usual, plays were mostly overlooked, especially since the fall’s star-heavy hits (“A Steady Rain,” “Hamlet”) recently ended their limited engagements. “Race” ($532,801) was actually down a bit, but “God of Carnage” ($493,863) was up and has remained generally steady over the weeks since the departure of the celeb-filled original cast.

Compared to last year, the week’s cume of $24.3 million was notably down from the 2008 gross tally of $27.2 million. Attendance hit about 81% vs. the 94% posted last year.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the holiday frame isn’t over. Often the biggest sales tallies come from performances during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so some productions at least can likely look forward to extending the B.O. buzz by another week.

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