Previews boost Broadway box office

Overall tally rose to $14.3 million for 26 shows

Several Broadway productions posted generally minor box office declines last week — but the Street’s overall cume rose, thanks to an incoming tide of previewing shows.

The Rialto revival of “Hair” began promisingly, with the first five perfs of the show pulling in $404,387 and playing to auds that averaged 86% of capacity. Another new outing successfully filling seats was “Exit the King” ($126,010 for two previews), the Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon starrer that attracted auds at 89% of capacity.

Previewing tuner “West Side Story” ($1,066,334) stayed strong, gaining slightly on its spectacular opening-sesh receipts. That show played its first frame of eight previews, as did play revival “Blithe Spirit” ($438,688), which posted decent numbers for a previewing non-musical although it filled less than 60% of the Shubert Theater (which is more often a musical house).

New plays “God of Carnage” ($396,469), “33 Variations” ($269,780) and “Impressionism” ($265,211) contributed to the Rialto pot too, with each offering also playing its first full week of previews.

Besides those shows, though, not many productions already up and running managed to gain much ground.

The only one to post a significant gain was “Guy and Dolls” ($555,451), rising in the wake of its heavily comped opening week. The next few frames will likely indicate how the show’s critical reception — much of it downbeat — will influence biz.

Otherwise, not much notable happened at the box office. Will Ferrell’s “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush” ($868,898) continued to sell like hotcakes in the second-to-last week of its limited engagement, while on the lower end of the spectrum, “August: Osage County” ($212,047) played to just 44% of capacity (with producers hoping the upcoming addition of Phylicia Rashad to the cast might help boost biz).

The Main Stem’s overall tally rose about $920,000 to $14.3 million for 26 shows on the boards.

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