Thanksgiving brings box office bounty on Broadway

“Wicked” hit a Main Stem milestone this weekend, becoming the first Broadway production to report sales of more than $2 million for a single frame on the boards.

Exact figure for the tuner’s Thanksgiving week (ended Sunday) came to a whopping $2,086,135, besting the previous Rialto record of about $1.84 million, also held by juggernaut “Wicked” and posted during the 2007 end-of-year sesh.

Not bad for a 6-year-old show.

The breaking of that record — not to mention a couple of house records along the Rialto — was helped along by the fact that this season was the first that productions have reported “gross gross” sales vs. the smaller “net gross.” And ticket prices are, of course, always on the rise, getting an extra boost from premium-priced sales for in-demand hits (which become doubly in demand during high-traffic periods such as the holidays).

And not all shows had a bountiful Thanksgiving. While already-established hits and tourist-appeal tuners could benefit from the influx of holiday visitors, medium-range sellers tended to do biz that wasn’t much more than average, and most plays got lost in the mix.

Among the shows with reasons to be thankful, “The Lion King” ($1,693,074) and “Billy Elliot” ($1,574,502) set new records at their respective venues, and two often-fluctuating offerings, “Mary Poppins” ($1,068,271) and “Shrek the Musical” ($1,025,635), made impressive gains.

Legiters keeping an eye on “Fela!” ($510,371), which opened last week to generally glowing reviews, could note that the show, while not posting record-breaking numbers, more than doubled the tally from the prior frame and played to 99% capacity. That’s an encouraging sign, although it remains to be seen whether the nontraditional musical can sustain the spike in interest.

The first seven-preview frame of the revival of “A Little Night Music,” starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, also logged solid numbers, bringing in $754,236 and playing to about 90% capacity.

Compared to the skyrocketing receipts at other productions, shows such as “Rock of Ages” ($640,634), “Finian’s Rainbow” ($573,110) and “Ragtime” ($555,314) seemingly missed out at the B.O., although all three reported bumps (a couple of them large ones). “Memphis” ($613,940) even slipped a little.

Meanwhile, a lot of plays with no big-name celeb in the cast to drive sales could barely get arrested. Hugh Jackman-Daniel Craig starrer “A Steady Rain” ($1,199,574) did just fine, thanks, and Jude Law topliner “Hamlet” ($947,424) posted its best numbers yet.

But “God of Carnage” ($506,133) had the barest of upticks, “Race” ($448,415) was down in its second week on the boards, and “Superior Donuts” ($215,339) and “Oleanna” ($129,778), both closing Jan. 3, continued to struggle.

Overall Broadway sales climbed about $5.7 million to $25.3 million. Attendance rose to 252,728, an improvement over the approximately 245,000 counted during the Thanksgiving frame in 2008.

But that year there were 30 shows running vs, 34 this year, so the latest number reps a drop in a comparison of percentage of overall capacity, with this year attracting crowds at about 76% of capacity vs. the 90% logged last year.

Industry observers note that this year fewer long-established tuner brands are around to turn tourists’ heads; last year, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Grease” were among the now-defunct shows that could cash in on their familiar names.

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