Broadway hits holiday heights

Cumulative sales don't break records

Sales records were broken all over Broadway last week, with holiday traffic and premium ticket prices contributing to a surge in grosses.

At the top of the heap was “Wicked” ($2,125,740), setting a new bar for best-ever week on the Rialto for the third time in six weeks. Other shows to achieve fresh house records included “The Lion King” ($1,740,130), “Billy Elliot” ($1,663,895), “West Side Story” ($1,485,158) and the recently opened revival of “A Little Night Music” ($1,031,543), continuing to post unusually strong sales for a cerebral Stephen Sondheim musical.

Although Broadway productions sometimes sked nine perfs during holiday frames to take advantage of the year-end B.O., most shows didn’t this year — all except “Next to Normal” ($550,409), which logged the highest recorded gross at the Booth Theater, and “Fela!” ($838,749), a tuner that seems to be successfully building momentum off the glowing reviews it earned when it opened in November.

Perhaps the most unexpected offering to break a house record was “The Phantom of the Opera” ($1,374,875), which maintains its astonishing ability to attract crowds after playing for 22 years (so far), the longest run in Rialto history.

Despite all the high-water marks surpassed last week, the overall Main Stem tally of $28.1 million for 31 shows wasn’t a Broadway best for a year-end holiday week. The 2007-08 Christmas frame, for instance, raked in $28.3 million in net grosses (vs. the comparatively higher gross-gross now reported by the Broadway League), and that was before taking into account the unreported numbers from “Young Frankenstein,” which had opened that fall.

Attendance was up last week vs. the prior sesh, rising about 34,000 to 272,864, but it was still down compared to the 280,000 theatergoers who turned out during the same week last season.

The week’s robust sales tally for “Shrek the Musical” ($1,387,182) was its last, with the tuner closing Sunday along with the limited run of “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” ($759,048, down in the wake of the titular holiday) and “Superior Donuts” ($303,165).

Tuner revivals “Ragtime” ($743,751) and “Finian’s Rainbow” ($720,849) were both up by more than $125,000 — enough to prompt a week’s extension for “Ragtime” (now closing Jan. 10) but not enough to keep either show alive, with “Rainbow” also closing later this month.

As is usually the case during tourist-heavy weeks, straight plays were mostly eclipsed by musicals last week, although new revival “A View From the Bridge” ($601,729 for seven perfs), starring Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber, became the top grossing non-tuner of the week in its first frame on the boards. “Race” ($588,110) and “God of Carnage” ($571,122) held up, but neither wowed.

Also joining the Broadway fray this week was the Roundabout’s revival of “Present Laughter,” logging $88,615 for four perfs.

Next up for the Rialto: The annual January slump, which traditionally sees sales plummet into post-holiday doldrums until spring. Along with “Ragtime” and “Rainbow,” shows skedded to close this month include “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The 39 Steps,” “Burn the Floor” and “Wishful Drinking.”

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