NEW YORK — After 10 straight years of B.O. records, terrorism and recession-buffeted Broadway did not make it 11 with the 2001-02 season.
Then again, Broadway did not lay the proverbial egg. This was the season, after all, when 23 shows during the week of Sept. 10-16 grossed just $3,647,734.
Total gross for the entire season stood at $642,545,026, off $22.87 million or down 3.43% from the previous record-setting season. The 2000-01 season had enjoyed a particularly hefty 10.4% bounce from 1999-00, which produced receipts of $602,596,528.
Broadway’s last B.O. shrinkage also came during a recession: The 1990-91 session grossed about $16 million less than the 1989-90 season’s then-record-setting $283,364,442.
Pessimists will find much to ponder in 2001-02 season’s paid attendance figure of 10,958,432. That’s off nearly 1 million from a year ago and below the 11 million mark for the first time since 1995-96, when paid attendance came to 10,318,217 and the average ticket price was $48.40 as opposed to $58.63 in 2001-02.
Although “The Producers” opened the previous season, its astounding $400 top ticket plus fee (courtesy of Broadway Inner Circle) did not kick in until autumn 2001. Later in the season, “The Crucible” and “The Graduate” offered $200 tops plus fee through BIC.
For the first time in three years, theater occupancy dipped from its 75% plus plateau and slid to 72.4%. Playing weeks were down to a four-season low of 1,430, off 55 weeks from 2000-01.
Surprisingly, seven more new productions opened on Broadway than during the previous season. Thirty-five preemed in 2001-02, with 33 opening in 1999-2000.
As for comparisons to that blockbuster previous season, the first three months of the 2001-02 season grossed an infinitesimal $1 million more than summer 2000 thanks to the new super-grossing “42nd Street” and “The Producers.”
Post-Sept. 11, total B.O. fell about 10% during the autumn and early months of winter despite the October entry of mighty “Mamma Mia!”
To weather the December-February doldrums, NYC & Co. together with the League of American Theaters and Producers instituted a city-sponsored subsidy program called Spend Your Regards to Broadway, which purchased an estimated $2.5 million in tickets. (The city received about $1 million in refunds from shows that participated but broke-even during that period.)
By spring 2002, B.O. occasionally bettered levels set the previous year but rarely broke through those established in the rosier economy of spring 2000, when all 38 Broadway theaters housed shows.
On a more optimistic note: The Memorial Day session just ended grossed a record $15,295,721, which is up from $14.5 in 2001 and $14.7 in 2000.