Broadway Box Office: Thanksgiving Week Shatters Records

Broadway had a Thanksgiving feast of its own last week as box office totals — pumped by the annual influx of tourist business over the long weekend — broke the previous Thanksgiving record both for gross and for attendance.

Overall Broadway sales hit $34.1 million for 36 shows on the boards, an increase of about $2.6 million compared to the same week in 2013 (and up $7.4 million from the prior week). Attendance came in at 284,569, or 83% of overall capacity. Last year’s turnout was 261,056.

Contributing to the broken records was the fact that there were four more productions running last week than there were during Thanksgiving last year. It also helps that in addition to the usual array of big musical sellers, the current fall slate encompasses a notably large pack of strong-selling plays, including star-driven titles such as Nathan Lane-Matthew Broderick comedy “It’s Only a Play” ($1,354,791), Bradley Cooper starrer “The Elephant Man” ($958,970) and Hugh Jackman outing “The River” ($906,275) as well as the critically acclaimed transfer of London hit “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($952,041, its best week so far).

That’s an unusually deep pool of strong-selling plays, especially during a holiday week when visiting theatergoers are more often drawn to razzle-dazzle musicals. This year, those plays added coin to a pot already filled with stellar sales at enduring hits including “Wicked” ($2,432,132 for nine), “The Lion King” ($2,422,719, a new house record) and “The Book of Mormon” ($1,875,135).

Family-friendly offerings including “Matilda” ($1,454,493) and “Cinderella” ($1,115,935) were among those to get the biggest boost, alongside longrunning favorite “The Phantom of the Opera” ($1,131,137). All three placed in the Top 10 beside newer offerings “Aladdin” ($1,759,955, also a house record), “Beautiful” ($1,405,434) and “Kinky Boots” ($1,314,521).

Another bonus last week: The initial performances of the limited run of magic showcase “The Illusionists,” which raked in $1,048,858 from just seven shows.

All those hot tickets helped drive up the average price paid per ticket to nearly $120. The long list of shows running, though, also meant that more seats were available, so even though the raw attendance number was a record, the percentage of seats filled was down a few points from last year, when Broadway packed houses to almost 86% of overall capacity.

As is always the case, not every show shared in the holiday bounty. Despite strong reviews, “Side Show” ($466,970) didn’t get much love. Nor did Sting musical “The Last Ship” ($458,563), but, according to reps for the show, that musical rang in some $1 million in advance sales last week following the announcement that Sting would step into the show himself later this month.

Previewing musical “Honeymoon in Vegas” ($351,277) proved too new an addition to the Street to attract much attention, while plays including “Disgraced” ($412,694) and “Love Letters” ($309,103 for seven) downshifted as well.

In the coming week, sales and attendance alike will deflate following the Turkey Day spike — but to judge from prior years, audiences will still sustain a healthy Broadway appetite throughout December, ahead of the annual B.O. extravaganza to come during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

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