Comic logs strong sales in mixed box office week

Lewis Black made a boffo Broadway bow last week, with the comic logging stellar numbers for the first six perfs of the two-week Rialto stop of his solo gig “Running on Empty.”

The production grossed $742,860 last week — not a huge tally when compared against Top 10 habituees such as “The Lion King” ($1,769,949) and “Wicked” ($1,691,769), but plenty impressive when you consider it was only a six perf week (rather than the usual eight), attendance hit 100% and the potential gross was only $682,740, meaning that auds were willing to pay out for the premium tickets that push a show’s receipts above its regular-price potential.

Black’s debut helped bolster a box office frame during which most shows on the boards posted declines of varying degrees of severity. Also adding to the pot was “The Heiress” ($542,464), a decent showing for previewing play revival in its first full week of previews, as well as a $100,000 uptick at the Ricky Martin-powered “Evita” ($1,185,495).

New tuner “Scandalous” started previews, yielding $66,341 for its single performance of the week and playing to auds at 89% of capacity. Numbers don’t turn any heads, but it’s too early yet to get any real sense of the unfamiliar title’s potential box office appeal. Meanwhile, the previewing revival of “Annie” ($647,763 for seven perfs) posted decent if not spectacular sales, played to 73% attendance in one of Broadway’s larger houses.

Overall Broadway cume was up about $500,000 to $20.6 million for 26 shows on the boards. Eight shows camped out in the Top 10, including “Nice Work If You Can Get It” ($1,076,731), which seems to have counterintuitively regained its mojo during the tourist-starved fall following a run of uninspiring summer weeks.

Most shows, however, slowed at the box office, with a particularly notable decline at “Bring It On” (off 31% to $365,689). Attendance barely topped 56%. It’s too soon to begin worrying the show will need to shutter ahead of its Jan. 20 end date, especially since last week was the first beyond the run that initially was skedded to end Oct. 7, but the title is nonetheless one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.

Two shows opened during the frame, with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” ($215,495) slipping thanks to its heavily comped opening night perf Oct. 13. “Cyrano de Bergerac” ($210,342), on the other, held steady despite accomodating an opening perf Oct. 11.

Overall Broadway attendance crept up by about 9,000 to 214,024, in a sign that auds are starting to head back to the Main Stem after the annual post-Labor Day slowdown.

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