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B’way starts year on high note

B.O. breaks some records, but not biggest

HOLLYWOOD — New Year’s week 2004 set many records, but it did not break the big one. Thirty shows last week brought in $20,449,860, up $1,316,780 or 6.88% from the Christmas session. While that awesome sum is a record for the first week of any year, it fell short of the all-time high of $21.35 million produced during Christmas week 2002, when 33 shows were running on Broadway.

Six shows set house records: “Avenue Q” ($493,128) at the Golden, “Beauty and the Beast” ($986,950) at the Lunt-Fontanne, “The Boy From Oz” ($920,845) at the Imperial, “Mamma Mia!” ($1,102,780) at the Winter Garden, “Wicked” ($1,188,937) at the Gershwin and, of course, “The Producers” ($1,600,243) at the St. James.

Last week marked the grand return of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick to the Mel Brooks tuner, which now holds the Broadway record of $1.6 million for eight perfs.

Joining the million-dollar club were “The Lion King” ($1,274,664) and “Hairspray” ($1,012,400), each of which took a small four-figure tumble from the Christmas session. The first week of 2004 saw five shows topping the $1 million mark. The old year began and ended with the same number of musicals grossing seven figures. (“Wicked” replaces “La Boheme” as that fifth high-scoring tuner.)

Plays don’t always love the holidays, and last week was no exception. “Anna in the Tropics” ($199,155) dropped $38,045. And “Golda’s Balcony” ($200,039) and “I Am My Own Wife” ($198,139) were off $11,344 and $6,411, respectively. Still, after its initial low-grossing weeks, the “Wife” tally bodes well for the winter.

‘Retreat’ fails to charge

Not so promising, “The Retreat From Moscow” ($179,051) managed to grow $11,614, but should have improved more after eschewing one perf the previous week.

Big rallies, however, blessed “The Caretaker” ($251,623) and “Take Me Out” ($351,023) in their final week. Going from six to seven perfs, “Henry IV” ($599,860) grossed an additional $130,706 for its best week to date. And up $44,688, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” ($514,894) put in one of its higher-grossing sessions.

It’s a mystery: “Wonderful Town” ($734,435) fell $50,431, with Donna Murphy in for all eight.

Still, “Never Gonna Dance” ($496,207) and “Taboo” ($364,009) would be happy to trade their grosses with that Leonard Bernstein revival. Those two tuners managed only four-figure gains from Christmas week. Off just $2,780, “Little Shop of Horrors” ($684,636) marked time to put in its third best week to date. And “Gypsy” ($779,698) saw one of the bigger recoveries, up $122,571.

The overall health of Broadway can be measured by its longrunning tuners — and the patient looks robust. Most saw biz improve from a year ago. “Aida” ($849,615), “Chicago” ($675,325), “Movin’ Out” ($834,753), “The Phantom of the Opera” ($844,453), “Rent” ($541,655) and “Urinetown” ($365,308) all were up from New Year’s week 2003. Only “Thoroughly Modern Millie” ($784,117) took a minor tumble from 12 months ago.

After 2,378 perfs, “Cabaret” ($536,433) finally called it quits, with the box office growing $91,502 in that final week.

Hello, “Assassins.”

And we were worried

Producer Carl D. White has taken down the Jan. 11 closing notice on the longrunning Off Broadway show “Naked Boys Singing.” The tuner continues its open-ended run at the Actors Playhouse. White cited encouraging ticket sales over the holidays.

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