Broadway Box Office: Billy Crystal Banks Sparkling Sales

Billy Crystal 700 Sundays Broadway Box
Mike Moore/Getty Images

The return of the performer's solo outing, '700 Sundays,' gets off to a stellar start in a week that saw attendance climb

Nearly ten years after his last Broadway stint, Billy Crystal’s status as a box office powerhouse remains undiminished: His solo outing “700 Sundays” raked in more than $1 million in its first six previews.

The strong start for “700 Sundays” ($1,147,436) must feel like deja vu for Crystal, who made his Broadway debut in 2004 with the same autobiographical production. That first outing spent most of its seven-month run posting weekly B.O. somewhere between $750,000 and $850,000 for seven (and sometimes six) perfs per week, playing to full houses.

Those grosses sound almost quaint today, now that the rising prevalence of premium-priced seating has inflated weekly tallies that, compared to ten years ago, are already boosted by the upward creep of top ticket prices. With attendance at about 87% of capacity, average price paid per ticket at “700 Sundays” last week was $149.29 — the second highest on the Street, behind the $200 average at “The Book of Mormon” ($1,767,155) and putting it in the same range as “Betrayal” ($1,245,258) and “Kinky Boots” ($1,671,806).

The new coin from “700 Sundays” contributed to an overall Broadway tally that climbed significantly last week thanks in part to a spike in tourist biz prompted by the long Veteran’s Day weekend. Another bonus was the school closings in New Jersey Nov. 7-8 (due to an annual teachers’ conference), which could fuel sales at family titles. Rialto cume climbed more than $3 million to $25.7 million for 32 shows on the boards, while attendance spiked by 22,000 to 252,458.

“Wicked” ($1,864,819) led the Top 10, with the Gershwin’s usual 1,809-seat capacity upped for six of its eight perfs to 1,928. Those additional seats, at the back of the rear mezzanine, were originally part of the theater’s capacity before they were walled off circa 2002; they’re now back thanks to the recent renovation of the Gershwin. According to producer David Stone, the wall has been replaced by a curtain that will allow producers the flexibility to take advantage of the extra seating during high-demand performances (such as the ones over the Veterans’ Day weekend).

Among the  few shows logging declines last week were “Big Fish” ($600,339), seemingly confirming the wisdom of the recent decision to shutter the show at the end of year, and “Richard III/Twelfth Night” ($491,847), which accommodated a heavy load of comp tickets due to press performances and its two-show opening Nov. 10. (“First Date,” a show that, like “Big Fish,” just opted to exit after the holidays, climbed to $399,240.)

Family-friendly tuners in particular got a bump from the tourism tide, with “Cinderella” ($858,663), “Annie” ($838,833) and “Newsies” ($749,821) each up by notable amounts. In the wake of its largely stellar reviews, Cotton Club revue “After Midnight” ($585,515) jumped by 58%.

Barely rising, on the other hand, was “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($810,162), in a frame when most observers would have expected it to step up. That’ll only fuel the preexisting rumors of an imminent closing notice.

With the addition of “700 Sundays,” opening Nov. 13, the Main Stem’s fall lineup is now complete. Currently in previews and opening within the next two weeks are tuner “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” Ethan Hawke starrer “Macbeth” and the Ian McKellen-Patrick Stewart topliner “No Man’s Land/Waiting  for Godot.”



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