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Broadway hit by early B.O. chill

'Henry,' 'Urinetown' contribute to plunge

Broadway continued work last week on that new sub-cellar for its box office.

The chill factor for 26 shows came to $12,494,393, down $1,470,304 or 10.53% from the previous rather frigid week. The Jan. 18 closings of “Henry IV” and “Urinetown” contributed no more than $800,000 to the overall plunge, with the new revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” ($441,300) making up for more than half that amount in its first four previews. It was an across-the-board freeze as all shows, except for the soon-to-shutter “Taboo,” took a dip.

How does last week’s B.O. egg compare to previous Januarys? The paid attendance of 184,705 looks pale compared to the 194,298 that 25 shows produced in 2001 and right in line with the 171,730 that 24 did in 2000.

In other words, January is always panic time on Broadway. Especially for the new shows on the block. Last week, most of them put in their worst grossing session to date: “The Boy From Oz” ($654,698), “Gypsy” ($395,334), “Little Shop of Horrors” ($334,640), “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” ($326,073), “Never Gonna Dance” ($310,519) and “Anna in the Tropics” ($146,943).

It was a split report card for some long-running fare. Although “Mamma Mia” ($857,422), “The Lion King” ($982,833) and “The Phantom of the Opera” ($438,613) all sustained five-figure hits, each managed a marginal B.O. improvement over their performance a year ago.

Not so lucky were “Aida” ($436,990), “Beauty and the Beast” ($398,226), “Chicago” ($413,649), “42nd Street” ($399,025) and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” ($413,151), all of which fell below levels set at the end of January 2003. “Rent” ($231,400) felt the most damage, its receipt off $101,190 from the previous week and down $34,000 from a year ago.

Doing only 81.7% capacity, “Hairspray” ($796,186) appears to have flip-flopped with “The Producers” ($1,358,932) in the inflated-hit category.

The cume for “Chicago” ($413,649) was its lowest at the Ambassador. When it resided at the Shubert, the show had fallen under $400,000 during summer 2002.

On the strength of its February closing notice, “Taboo” ($301,698) finally reversed its downward spiral to grow $18,635, bestowing honors to “Rent” as the lowest grossing tuner on Broadway.

Other shows under the Top 10 have seen better days. They have also seen worse: “Avenue Q” ($370,863), “Golda’s Balcony” ($170,891) and “The Retreat From Moscow” ($160,287).

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