Broadway Smashes Box Office Records in 2014-15

Broadway hit a new landmark in the 2014-15 season, attracting more than 13 million theatergoers and pulling in $1.37 billion in a record-breaking 52-week frame.

That attendance tally of 13.1 million represents an important achievement for the Broadway theater industry. Attendance from prior seasons hasn’t even come within spitting distance of 13 million in the past: The closest it came was 12.53 million in 2010-11, which for bookkeeping purposes was a 53-week season rather than the standard 52. The previous high for a 52-week season was 12.33 in 2011-12. (Last season hit 12.21 million, and the 2012-13 season reported 11.57 million theatergoers.)

The $1,365,232,182 in cumulative box office is also a new record, although given the rise of premium-price ticketing and the upward trend of ticket prices in general, that bump comes as less of a surprise. Grosses for the 2014-15 season were up 7.6% compared to last season’s $1.27 billion, and attendance climbed 7.3% over 2013-14.

In the season-end figures compiled by the Broadway League, another record was broken by the season’s 1,626 playing weeks — that is, the number of weeks played by each individual production over the course of the season, all tallied into one cumulative total. The prior record had been 1,588, set in 2010-11.

Among the Street’s individual titles, “The Lion King” ($101.9 million) — a consistent smash that has managed to roar to new life over the last few years — set a sales record for a single show over one season. Also doing well in 2014-15 were the usual suspects at the top of the Broadway charts, including “Wicked” ($91.7 million) and “The Book of Mormon” ($84.2 million).

Contributing to the season’s muscular totals was the fact that Broadway has benefited in recent years from an influx of ongoing, strong-selling musicals that have joined those long-running successes — plus “The Phantom of the Opera” ($47.7 million this season), “Jersey Boys” ($41 million), “Mamma Mia!” ($35.6 million) and “Chicago” ($28.9 million) — in regularly bringing in money to Broadway. Last season’s “Aladdin” ($75.9 million) and “Beautiful” ($61.4 million) are still doing robust business, as are 2012-13 openers “Kinky Boots” ($59.9 million) and “Matilda” ($51.3 million).

This spring, newly minted crowdpleasers such as “An American in Paris” ($11.2 million), “Finding Neverland” ($10.1 million), “The King and I” ($9.4 million) and “Something Rotten” ($6.6 million) all look like they’re gearing up for healthy summers.

This season’s boffo box office momentum was also helped along by a flood of plays in 2014-15, with popular, star-driven limited runs including Larry David outing “Fish in the Dark” ($18.5 million so far), Helen Mirren hit “The Audience” ($16.1 million so far), Bradley Cooper starrer “The Elephant Man” ($14.7 million) and Hugh Jackman vehicle “The River” ($10.8 million). The season also boasted not one but two plays that have, in a rare turn, proved successful enough to play open-ended runs, with starry comedy “It’s Only a Play” ($36.3 million), blessed by big-money returns in its first months, and Tony contender “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($28.8 million) contributing significantly to Broadway’s 2014-15 totals.

All told, the season’s ongoing and new offerings made for a broad slate of high-demand titles, across both musicals and plays, that helped drive up Broadway’s overall numbers.

The 52-week season ran May 26, 2014-May 24,2015, ending on a Memorial Day weekend that, alone, pulled in $29.3 million for 33 shows on the boards. Buoyed by the publicity spotlight of the theater awards season, Tony contenders such as “American in Paris” ($1,349,932), “Something Rotten!” ($1,064,165) and “Fun Home” ($627,641) all hit best-ever numbers.

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