Broadway will rake in more coin than ever this year, hitting a record $900 million after this weekend.
Box office rang up to $878.4 million through the week ending Dec. 24, according to preliminary figures compiled by Daily Variety. If the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s proves as boffo as last year’s — when the frame’s take topped $25 million — then 2006 receipts will finish well ahead of the $825 million that, according to stats from the League of American Theaters & Producers, Broadway grossed in 2005.
Attendance through Christmas Eve hit 11.6 million. Projecting an attendance on par with the 280,000 logged in last year’s final week, this year’s total looks likely to hover just below 12 million, nearly equal to the 2005 sum.
Fact that grosses rose while attendance fell slightly can be explained by rising ticket prices (most tuners top out at $110, a price level just beginning to become prevalent last fall) and a boom year for premium-priced seats, which gave in-demand shows, such as the Julia Roberts starrer “Three Days of Rain,” a serious bump at the B.O.
Playing weeks, the tally of performance frames racked up by individual productions on the boards in 2006, were down to 1,442 from a record last year of 1,517. Still, the figure is nearly the same as it was for 2004 and 2003, and well ahead of the 1,161 playing weeks reported in 1995.
Coupled with the year’s skyrocketing grosses, the dip in playing weeks suggests Rialto perfs had fuller houses than ever. And the climbing pricetags helped ensure that more productions earned more than $1 million per week more often.
Habitual top-seller “Wicked” once again proved most popular, bringing in $71.3 million through the week ending Dec. 24, with longtime hit “The Lion King” ($55.9 million) pouncing on second place.
But a couple of newer successes also muscled their way toward the head of the 2006 class.
The snowballing sales of “Jersey Boys,” which got an additional boost from its Tony wins in June, reached $53.9 million this year. And the box office heat of “The Color Purple,” ignited by Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement, added up to $51.4 million.
“Spamalot” ($49.7 million) and “Mamma Mia!” ($48.1 million) also were strong sellers.
Long runners “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Producers” and “Hairspray” logged around $32 million each in 2006, as did Johnny-come-lately surprise hit “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which opened in May.
Another fiscal boost came from a handful of unusually strong-selling limited runs of plays, including the aforementioned “Rain,” Nathan Lane/Matthew Broderick starrer “The Odd Couple” and Tony winner “The History Boys.”
A rare seasonal offering, “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” has proved a surprise star at the box office, reporting holiday sales that sometimes top even the mammoth weekly haul of “Wicked.” With an unorthodox, stacked sked of 12 perfs per week, the tuner also has added some last-minute heft to attendance figures.
From the perspective of the 2006-07 season, which kicked off May 29, the fall half of the season looks to surpass $520 million (compared with $475 million from the same period in 2005). Average attendance (83%) rose by approximately 2%.