Spring puts spring in box office’s step

Broadway Grosses

NEW YORK — Broadway continued its annual uphill spring climb in Week 43 (March 16-22), with new productions gaining steam and adding to the Rialto pot.

In a week when nearly every show on the boards saw gains at the box office, perhaps the most notable increase came at “Blithe Spirit” ($640,702). The revival didn’t score across-the-board raves from critics, but good press, particularly for Angela Lansbury’s turn in the show, helped bring in crowds at 99% of capacity.

The revival of the Noel Coward comedy takes the mantle as the top-selling nonmusical entry on the Main Stem, in the absence of Will Ferrell’s recently shuttered stint.

Two long-standing hit tuners, “The Lion King” ($1,128,139) and “Jersey Boys” ($1,032,100), returned to the millionaires’ club, joining “Wicked” ($1,444,495), “Billy Elliot” ($1,188,953) and “West Side Story” ($1,004,497) — the last still holding strong.

Legiters have begun to speculate that familiar titles (like “West Side” or “Blithe Spirit”) have become stronger draws for auds grown more risk-averse in the current economic climate. Week 43’s sales bear that out, with ultra-long runners “The Phantom of the Opera” ($834,069) and “Chicago” ($592,620) among the shows posting strong numbers.

While not quite catching fire, the current revival of “Guys and Dolls” ($684,190) also continues to log solid B.O. — and a robust 99% attendance rate.

The previewing revival of “Hair” ($660,599), meanwhile, also gained momentum, playing to 90% capacity.

Joining the fray this week was tuner “Rock of Ages” ($229,602), playing to an encouraging 98% capacity, while the first four perfs of the Lincoln Center Theater revival “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” ($78,336) started slowly.

Among the other new play productions on the boards, “God of Carnage” ($426,495) managed to rise in its heavily comped opening week and will likely continue to see sales grow in the wake of strong reviews. “Exit the King” ($368,543), “Impressionism” ($353,263), “Irena’s Vow” ($206,040) and “Reasons to Be Pretty” ($106,449) also saw upticks — although those last two continue to find it difficult to attract sales in a crowded play market.

Total sales rose $1.3 million to $17.4 million for 29 shows on the boards. That gross figure lags behind last year’s $20.8 million (for 30 shows) during the same frame, but the week’s 89% attendance was about on par with the percentage tallied in 2008.

The 17 musicals grossed $13,982,667 for 80.4% of the Broadway total, with an attendance of 178,396 at 94.5% capacity and average paid admission of $78.38.

The 12 plays grossed $3,408,599 for 19.6% of the Broadway total, with an attendance of 61,087 at 63.8% capacity and average paid admission of $55.80.

Average paid admission was $72.62 for all shows.

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