Broadway Box Office: Sales Take a $20 Million Hit in January Chill

The Color Purple closing Broadway
Matthew Murphy

The first full week of January brought the Broadway box office crashing down to earth, with sales plunging by 40%, or a whopping $20 million, compared to the previous week, when numbers were riding sky-high on the annual holiday-tourism boom. With the crowds of city visitors already drastically reduced, the all-day snowfall on Jan. 7 probably kept some local theatergoers home by the fire this weekend, too, instead of out at a Broadway show.

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But with a cumulative total of nearly $30 million for 29 shows, sales were hardly dire, with 14 productions topping $1 million each (and two of those surpassing the $2 million mark). Besides, a handful of productions managed to buck the downward trend, most notably the Tony winning revival of “The Color Purple” ($1,173,670), which in its final week remained as lofty as it had over the holiday frame. The show went out with a PR bang as well, thanks to the Clinton family’s attendance at the final performance on Jan. 8.

In Broadway’s annual January exodus, “Color Purple” was one of four productions to close, with both “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” ($442,767) and “The Encounter” ($344,130) up a bit in their final days and the shuttering revival of “Falsettos” ($661,019 for seven) down a tick with one fewer performance than the holiday week. Also remaining high was “Jersey Boys” ($1,359,697), pulling in some last-minute business before it ends its 11-year run on Jan. 15.

The one title that braved a midwinter opening last week, “The Present” ($929,215 in a week that included press performances and a heavily comped opening night), didn’t have any trouble surviving the chill, thanks to the powerhouse draw of Cate Blanchett in her Broadway debut.

Otherwise, it was a week that saw sales mostly return to their pre-holiday levels, with the usual suspects at the top of the charts including “Hamilton” ($2,456,491), “The Lion King” ($2,045,683), “Wicked” ($1,845,325), “Aladdin” ($1,550,638) and “The Book of Mormon” ($1,446,662). Among plays, the recently recouped revival of “The Front Page” ($1,022,453) still led the way, although “The Present” was hot on its heels.

Overall Broadway sales were down $20 million from the prior week’s record-breaking total of $49.7 milion, with the week ending Jan. 8 reporting $29.6 million for 29 shows. Attendance dropped by 100,000 to 260,164, which adds up to a still-robust 94% of the street’s overall potential. (Most titles played eight performances last week as opposed to the nine shows many productions played during the holiday frame.)

The month’s slowdown could stabilize in the coming week thanks to the long Martin Luther King Day weekend, but as a general trend, the next few weeks will see sales continue their overall slide before beginning to perk up in February.

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