Broadway Box Office: Newer Shows Gain Steam to Help Keep Business Warm

Beautiful Broadway box office Carole King

'Beautiful' sits pretty in the wake of its opening as the Rialto perks up slightly in a holiday weekend frame

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend and a couple of newer shows gaining momentum combined to help perk Broadway up a bit in a winter month when the Rialto box office is usually at its coldest.

The biggest gain of the week was posted at Carole King musical “Beautiful” ($850,362), up more than 35% compared to the prior sesh. Some of that rise was to be expected, since the show was coming off an opening week that accommodated all the comps of press perfs and opening night. But a climb of more than $225,000 during a traditionally tough time of the year indicates that the show’s reviews — mixed, but with a healthy percentage of largely favorable notices — are likely to keep the show chugging along, contributing to biz that was already solid thanks to King’s fanbase.

One of last fall’s critical faves, “Twelfth Night/Richard III” ($881,048), also did notably well for a cold-weather frame, breaking the box office record at the Belasco Theater for the fourth time. A Shakespeare double-bill performed in Elizabethan “original practices,” the show has become an unlikely must-see of the season, with biz keeping strong all this month thanks to the press plaudits and the fact that the show only runs through Feb. 16.

Another autumn opener to get the critics’ overwhelming thumbs-up, “After Midnight” ($590,401), also picked up a chunk of sales, as did last spring’s “Cinderella” ($781,752), up nearly $140,000 (or 22%). Both those shows will soon have cast changeovers —  k.d. lang steps into “Midnight” Feb. 11, while Fran Drescher and Carly Rae Jepson join “Cinderella” Feb. 4  — so there’s a chance some of those rises could be coming from theatergoers taking advantage of the holiday weekend to catch Fantasia Barrino (outgoing at “Midnight”) or Laura Osnes (exiting “Cinderella”) while they still can.

A couple of new shows began previews last week and added further new coin to the overall pot, with “The Bridges of Madison County” ($212,261 for three previews) earning respectable early numbers while Yankees play “Bronx Bombers” ($167,974 for a full eight) struggled to pull in crowds, posting attendance at about 60% of capacity. Meanwhile, the Street’s third previewing show, Debra Messing starrer “Outside Mullingar” ($282,706), picked up compared to previous sesh.

Overall, the majority of Broadway titles logged increases last week. Some of those upticks weren’t much, but any little bit helps in the winter, and similarly, none of the shows that posted declines dropped significantly.

Benefitting from a small theater to help keep demand high even in a slow week, “The Book of Mormon” ($1,750,313) topped the chart with “Wicked” ($1,749,967) hot on its heels and “The Lion King” ($1,653,132) not too far behind. Last spring’s trio of sales magnets — “Kinky Boots” ($1,527,348), “Motown” ($1,169,588) and “Matilda” ($1,130,146) — rounded out the millionaires’ club.

Broadway cume rose slightly to $20,091,732 for 26 shows on the boards. At 196,042, the overall attendance came to almost exactly the same number as the previous week.

The coming week has already started out hard with a major snowstorm that will keep a lot of theatergoers away even as Broadway stays open. Legiters can keep their fingers crossed that the weather will clear up by the weekend, and that the Broadway Week 2-for-1 ticket deals, which began Tuesday, also help keep B.O. healthy.

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