Blame Bush for this?

Admissions on Great White Way sink again to post-9/11 depth

It’s beginning to feel like January, and we don’t mean the weather.

Everyone expects Broadway’s box office to plummet in September. But going into October and November, receipts are supposed to pick up.

However, for the past five weeks, gross and paid-attendance numbers look frighteningly close to what Broadway produced post-9/11.

Here’s how the Oct. 1-Nov. 7 period of this year compares with those dreaded days in 2001: It’s $60 million now against $55 million then, with just under 1 million in paid attendance for each year.

Blame it on the presidential election?

Total gross in 2000, during the Bush/Gore standoff, came to $60 million, despite a top price ticket then of $85 (with “The Lion King” getting $90). The five-week period then saw approximately 100,000 more ticket buyers.

In 2002, paid attendance came to 1.3 million; in 2003, it was 1.2 million for the five-week period.

Box office should improve when the current glut of low-grossing one-person shows is replaced with lots of big tuners this spring. But it’s doubtful Broadway can recover fast enough to guarantee another record-setting season by the time June rolls around.

Meanwhile, the Nov. 11 preem for “Gem of the Ocean” came and went with no new August Wilson play on Broadway. While some proclaimed it the end of the straight play on Broadway, it actually looks more like the end of producing as a charitable activity. It follows last season’s sudden disappearance of Stephen Sondheim’s “Bounce.”

Despite their illustrious careers, the sad fact is that the two scribes each own only one bona fide money-maker, respectively, “Fences” and “A Little Night Music.”

As for new plays, theatergoers should look no further than Off Broadway, which this month and next offers the bounty of Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell,” Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” and “Modern Orthodox” by newcomer Daniel Goldfarb, who wrote the underrated “Adam Baum and the Jew Movie.” The casts, too, are the envy of Broadway, featuring such stars as Tim Roth, Jeremy Piven and Jason Biggs.

“They respond to a play because of the writer or director,” says casting director Bernard Telsey, “and the eight weeks (commitment) is something they can do between films.”

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