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Still Broadway’s winter of discontent

Hard times for legit B.O.

Winter 2005 has consistently failed to keep pace with legit levels of the past two years. At least business had been better than January-February 2002, which was still reeling from the effects of 9/1l.

Unfortunately, Broadway can no longer take comfort in even that minor solace. Last week, paid attendance came to 179,524, which fell below the 181,457 for this time frame in February 2002. Thanks to higher “special” ticket prices, the current box office for 22 shows was $11,997,494, a slight improvement from three years ago, when 24 shows brought in $11.53 million. Early February 2003 and ’04 saw much headier B.O. numbers: $14.73 million and $14.25 million, respectively.

A sure sign of health is the occupancy rate of Broadway’s 39 theaters. After a lackluster autumn, an above-normal number of productions chose to pack it in this January. At this rate, it’s unlikely the 2004-05 Broadway season will recover enough in the remaining 15 weeks to set any B.O. record.

As for last week, it actually staged a mini-recovery from the previous three desultory sessions. Box office was up 8.12%, or $901,162. Almost all shows saw dollar upticks, some significant.

Under the top 10, “Chicago” ($512,525) and “Rent” ($374,735) made the biggest rebounds, up $171,744 and $131,012, respectively.

“Democracy” ($262,845) marked time, up only $9,759.

Otherwise, there were modest five-figure gains for “Movin’ Out” ($500,410); “Avenue Q” ($451,082); “Dame Edna” ($262,234); “Brooklyn Boy” ($201,026); and “Brooklyn” ($253,361), which managed to avoid a second week under that magic $200,000 number.

Sour notes

New musicals “Little Women” ($400,115) and “Good Vibrations” ($329,897) failed to grow out of the box (or follow Broadway’s overall upward trend). Receipts there fell $15,464 and $5,609, respectively.

In its second week of previews, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” ($520,2778) dipped a bit, down $5,212.

And dropping $7,664, “Twelve Angry Men” ($266,250) extends once again. Until further notice, new final perf for the Reginald Rose courtroom drama will be May 8. Its extension displaces Roundabout’s previously announced “Passion Play” by Peter Nichols. Dates there are yet to be announced.

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