New highs hits in 53-week frame

Broadway ended the 2010-11 season on a box office high, logging a cume of $1.08 billion and robust attendance of 12.53 million, according to the Broadway League.

Both tallies are records, but year-to-year comparisons are thrown off a bit by the fact that the season was 53 weeks long rather than the standard 52. An extra frame is tacked on every seven years in an effort to balance out the bookkeeping variations thrown in by the vagaries of individual years (including the additional days in leap years, for instance).

At the end of week 52, 2010-11 had hit $1.057 billion, which was already up from the $1.02 billion logged from 2009-10. Attendance, meanwhile, was 12.26 million — a healthy figure but a bit below the 12.31 million posted over the 2006-07 season.

The season’s hearty totals can be attributed in part to the busy year on the Rialto, where 42 shows opened over the course of the season. That’s on the upper end of what’s usual; the 2008-09 total of 43 was the highest in some 20 years.

The number of playing weeks for the 2010-11 season — that is, the cumulative total of the individual weeks every single Broadway show was in production — hit 1,588, higher than the 1,560 from 2007-08. (The 52-week total for 2010-11 was 1,554.)

The number of plays that opened over the season, 25, easily outpaced the 14 tuners bowing. Stats reflect the continuing predominance of the limited-run play engagement, now a staple on the Main Stem thanks both to the season sked at Broadway’s not-for-profit houses and the rise of star-driven productions with strictly curtailed skeds.

Plays that opened over the season included “The Merchant of Venice,” “Jerusalem,” “The Motherfucker With the Hat,” “War Horse” and “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” while “The Book of Mormon,” “Catch Me If You Can,” “Sister Act,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” and “The Scottsboro Boys” were among those on the musical front. Season also included three “specials,” including concert stints by Harry Connick Jr. and Donny and Marie Osmond, that are classified as neither musicals nor plays.

The season ended on a week that saw the majority of individual shows slip somewhat. The highest-profile hits, however, stayed strong. “Mormon” ($1,168,812) continued to break house records at the Eugene O’Neill Theater while “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($1,323,651) also gained a bit of momentum, landing on the third rung of the top 10 behind “Wicked” ($1,732,752) and “The Lion King” ($1,652,879).

Another of the spring’s strong sellers, “War Horse” ($910,170), became one of the rare nonmusicals to break the $900,000 mark — an even rarer feat for a play with no movie star names in the cast.

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