Holiday traffic drives B’way

Johansson in 'Cat' makes big debut

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and Broadway box office was up — although the pre-holiday bounty didn’t quite extend all through the Rialto house.

Broadway’s overall average price paid per ticket rose to $107.30, an indicator that ticketbuyers were willing to pay a pretty penny to get into the shows they wanted to see. Further down the charts, though, were a number of productions — many of them plays — that were left out in the seasonal cold.

Among the frame’s big draws, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” ($843,215 for seven previews) stood out as a robust new addition to the slate. Topliner Scarlett Johansson, in her first stint back on the Rialto since she picked up a 2010 Tony in “A View From the Bridge,” plus the well-known property combined to push average price paid per ticket up to nearly $103 — the highest for any play next to the $144.21 at B.O.-buster “Glengarry Glen Ross” ($1,194,666), powered by Al Pacino. Attendance at “Cat” came in at around 85% of overall capacity.

Among other non-musicals on the boards, “War Horse” ($749,792), galloping toward its closing in early January, matched “Glengarry” with 97% attendance. But otherwise plays had a tough time of it, as Jessica Chastain topliner “The Heiress” ($406,273) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” ($286,937) both played to houses at less than 60% of capacity, “Grace” ($284,889) hit 45% and Katie Holmes starrer “Dead Accounts” ($243,154) slid to 38%.

It was tuners, as usual, that were the main event in a tourist-heavy sesh. “The Lion King” ($2,129,609) led the way, breaking a house record for an eight-pert week, followed by “Wicked” ($2,100,170) and “The Book of Mormon” ($1,684,372), which logged an average price paid per ticket of $192.46.

Holiday offering “A Christmas Story” ($1,491,488 for nine perfs) continued its hot streak by setting a house record at the Lunt-Fontanne. The show once again bested fellow yuletide contender “Elf” ($1,233,926, also for nine) in terms of grosses, but the latter musical also picked up a healthy head of steam as Christmas approached.

Nine shows pulled more than $1 million each — which seems a little weak, given recent frames that saw the entire Top 10 filled by millionaires. But it’s just another indicator that while there’s plenty of coin coming in to Broadway, the holiday weeks often end up as a by-the-book case of the haves vs. the have-nots.

“Nice Work if You Can Get It” ($720,127) took the biggest hit, with receipts slumping by 21%, and “Evita” ($774,870), another musical that’s had stellar sales in prior frames, also was off.

The gold stars for most improved went mainly to the perennials that tourists usually turn out for: “The Phantom of the Opera” (up 29% to $978,948), “Mary Poppins” (rising 28% to $888,346) and “Mamma Mia!” ($761,891, also up 28%). “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($1,471,237), a newer spectacle popular with out-of-towners, climbed 31%.

Further down the roster, it’s worth noting that “Rock of Ages” ($490,315) might not have broken any records, but the almost 4-year-old tuner still pulled in 92% capacity auds with an average price paid per ticket of $113.42. That’s a solid showing for a title that’s often overshadowed by the Street’s big-money earners.

Overall Broadway cume was up $2.4 million to $25.9 million for 31 shows on the boards. That tally was up 10% compare to the prior sesh — although attendance was only up 4%.

The current frame is the one that should really break the bank at the B.O., with the days between Christmas and New Year’s often being the most profitable for the Main Stem.

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