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‘Grinch’ cinches top spot

Broadway box office going strong

The mighty witches of “Wicked” gave up their extended domination atop the Broadway grosses chart for a second straight week, relinquishing the No. 1 position again to holiday upstart “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical.”

Boosted by its 12-performance schedule (as opposed to the standard eight), the kid-lit classic earned a hefty $1,669,499, playing to an average 96.3% capacity.

“Wicked” continues to be a powerhouse nonetheless, playing to 100% capacity and grossing $1,440,294.

Total box office for the week of $20,351,593 dipped marginally from the previous week’s tally of $21,218,728, but was significantly up from the same frame last year, which totaled $17.2 million. While a general hike in ticket prices is partly responsible, attendance also has climbed from 227,291 during the same week of the 2005-06 season to 258,335 last week.

Despite seven musicals again passing the $1 million mark, the standard round of holiday-party and last-minute shopping commitments ate into Broadway audiences, causing minor downturns for many shows.

Among the exceptions, “Spring Awakening” bounced up by a whopping 66.2% in the wake of stellar reviews, grossing $303,454. However, the coming weeks will tell whether the teen-angst tuner, which struggled to find an audience during previews and is still accommodating late-coming press, has the makings of a hit.

Also up from the previous week were “Mary Poppins” ($1,180,629), “A Chorus Line” ($849,859), “The Vertical Hour” ($545,125), “Company” ($536,434) and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” ($254,478).

Lincoln Center Theater’s Tom Stoppard trilogy, “The Coast of Utopia,” has now shifted into a two-play schedule in preparation for the official opening of the second installment, “Shipwreck,” this week. Both plays are doing sellout business, grossing $348,314 for the week. The concluding chapter, “Salvage,” opens Feb. 15; marathon days when all three plays are performed in sequence reportedly have sold fast, far exceeding LCT’s expectations.

Sole new entry this week was Roundabout’s revival of “The Apple Tree” at Studio 54, which garnered glowing reviews for star Kristin Chenoweth in her first Broadway outing since “Wicked.” The tuner earned $270,904 in its comp-heavy opening week.

Following dismissive notices and lackluster box office, new musical “High Fidelity” threw in the towel Sunday, closing just 10 days after its official opening with a dismal haul of $233,526 and 37.1% attendance.

While the trend recently with poorly received shows has been to apply marketing muscle to try to combat negative reviews by building word of mouth, the approach failed to save casualties like “Lestat,” “In My Life” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” By comparison, the brutal but swift decision of the “High Fidelity” producers to pull the plug rather than bleed money makes sense.