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Broadway Forecast: July 4 Soft, but Fireworks to Follow

'The Lion King,' 'Wicked' and 'The Book of Mormon' take advantage of projected summer sales with nine-performance weeks

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day: A lot of holidays bring an annual sales spike at the Broadway box office. July 4 isn’t one of them.

Unlike those other nationwide fetes, the Fourth pretty reliably signals the first slippage of the Rialto’s robust summertime B.O. This year might be especially tough on the overall cume, what with three shows having just exited (including big earner “All the Way”) and the holiday itself cutting into the Friday night performance slot, usually a moneymaker for most productions.

But that’s OK: Broadway productions still have some strong sales to look forward to. For proof, just check out the performance sked of the Street’s top hits, which have added a notable number of nine-performance weeks to take advantage of hot-weather tourism.

The Lion King” and “Wicked” will play two nine-perf frames this summer. Ditto “The Book of Mormon,” which last summer only played one supersized sesh. (Tallies do not include the Actors Fund charity perfs that “Lion King” and “Wicked” will also do this summer.)

There’s a risk-reward calculation involved in upping the standard eight-show week to nine, with overtime and other additional costs to be weighed against the bonus revenue that might be earned by an extra outing. Based on sales trends observed over the years of a production’s run (say, the 16-year lifespan of “Lion King”), producers can decide which weeks look poised to make an extra performance worth it in future summers.

Such schedule-tinkering represents an extension of the increasing savvy with which Broadway producers have embraced dynamic ticket pricing, another shifting set of goalposts that are guided by projected demand. As premium prices increasingly elevate the potential profit for hot-ticket shows, New York’s annual influx of summer tourism has become another high-demand season of which shows can take advantage.

Of course, demand is continually high for Broadway’s biggest titles such as “Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Mormon.” Those shows, among others of the Main Stem’s top sellers, look poised to emerge from the July 4 frame relatively unscathed. So, too, could some of the spring’s new-crowned sales magnets (“Aladdin,” “Beautiful”), in the same way that buzzy new titles held onto their summer momentum last year.

Titles farther down the chart will be the ones to suffer most — and that suffering might be exacerbated during those extra-perf weeks, when the additional inventory at “Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Mormon” will mop up some of the sales that usually spill over to other titles when those shows are sold out.

But to judge by Broadway trends over the past several summers, overall B.O. will swell again following the July 4 downshift, and then gradually deflate on the way to the traditional post-Labor Day plummet.

So while ticketbuyers may spend the Fourth out of town, or at least out of doors, producers can — and do — bank on the fact that they’ll be back in their seats in the weeks that follow.

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