Broadway Box Office: Starry ‘It’s Only a Play’ Hits New High

It's Only a Play record box

The star-packed Broadway production of Terrence McNally comedy “It’s Only a Play” broke the house record at the Schoenfeld Theater last week — which is particularly notable because it means the show’s box office tally rose in a week that saw most productions slow down a bit in the days after Thanksgiving.

“It’s Only a Play” jumped almost $70,000 (or about 5%) to $1,424,039, besting a record that the show had set last month. Helping to keep the production aloft is the fact that although “It’s Only a Play” recently extended its run, a handful of its stars — Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint — will exit the production early next month, which will prod some fans to catch the play sooner rather than later.

A handful of other plays stepped up last week as well, now that the flood of holiday tourists — which tend to gravitate toward large-scale musicals — have dispersed. Glenn Close and John Lithgow starrer “A Delicate Balance” ($873,152) rose, as did “Love Letters” ($409,785), up a whopping 33% as Alan Alda and Candice Bergen wind down their starring engagement (which finishes up Dec. 14). Ewan McGregor topliner “The Real Thing” ($458,860) also upticked.

A couple of new musicals gained a bit of steam, too, with Sting tuner “The Last Ship” ($491,910) picking up just ahead of Sting’s run in the show (kicking off Dec. 9). Previewing “Honeymoon in Vegas” ($410,775) added momentum, too, which producers can take as a good sign that word of mouth may be helping the show along in advance of its January opening. “Side Show” ($483,252), well-reviewed but still sales-challenged, also climbed, but only a bit.

“Motown” ($1,065,120) and “Rock of Ages” ($373,834) also posted gains, likely due to last-minute sales before January, when “Rock” shutters and “Motown” goes on an extended hiatus.

Otherwise, most productions on the Street declined last week — but since they were coming off the Thanksgiving spike, none fell alarmingly. Overall Broadway cume deflated $4 million to a still-robust $30.1 million for 36 shows on the boards. Attendance only downshifted about 9,000 to 275,732 (or 80% of overall capacity).

Both Bradley Cooper starrer “The Elephant Man” ($755,087) and magic showcase “The Illusionists” ($878,416) were among the titles to see sales sink, but that’s to be expected, since each hosted press performances and an opening night last week. Most other titles on the boards dropped as well, ranging from top dog “The Lion King” ($1,919,765) to Hugh Jackman outing “The River” ($873,863) to “Pippin” ($464,138) to “This Is Our Youth” ($262,663).

Still, things are pretty good on the Rialto these days, and will continue to be through Christmas, when the annual year-end boom is followed by the annual post-holiday hangover.

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