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Broadway attendance, sales held up in first quarter 2010

Neither rain nor snow kept theatergoers away

The Broadway League is touting the strength of Main Stem biz during the first quarter of 2010, reporting rises over first-quarter 2009 in both box office and attendance despite a particularly harsh winter.

The 2010 gross for the quarter, beginning Jan. 3 and ending March 28, hit $228,529,254, up from the $218,972,954 reported in 2009. (Last year’s figure is “gross-gross” to make for apples-to-apples comparison with this season, rather than the lower “net gross” that was previously reported for all seasons prior to this one.)

Attendance was up a bit, from 2,702,691 last year to 2,749,694.

One major reason for the uptick is likely the fact that the first quarter of 2009 saw an unusually large number of shows close that January, with the cyclical post-holiday shutterings exacerbated by the economic downturn that had seized the nation in late 2008. (By the end of that quarter, a number productions has come in to fill those vacancies.)

Still, it seems notable that this year Broadway held up, particularly in terms of attendance, in a winter season that had Gothamites grumbling about a series of major snowstorms and extended torrential downpours. Severe weather, with its attendant disruptions to travel and transit, often has a noticeable effect on Main Stem box office.

While not all shows have managed to draw crowds over the quarter — witness “The Miracle Worker” and “All About Me,” two early-spring offerings closing Sunday after logging disappointing sales — the season has had its share of strong draws.

Tuner “A Little Night Music,” the Catherine Zeta-Jones starrer that opened late last year, has logged unusually high sales for being in one of the Main Stem’s smaller venues, while play “A View from the Bridge,” toplined by Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson, has posted hefty numbers, particularly for a non-musical offering.

Coming in at the tail end of this quarter was “The Addams Family,” which instantly claimed a perch high on the Rialto’s top ten and has raked in about $3.8 million over its first three weeks on the boards.

Also adding coin to the pot, of course, were steady smashes including “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “Billy Elliot” and “Jersey Boys.”

Probably the most notable addition to the Broadway lineup in the first quarter of 2009 was Will Ferrell hit “You’re Welcome America,” which posted stellar numbers in its brief limited run last season. The new-defunct “Shrek the Musical” was new to the slate, having bowed late in 2008, but after the holidays was doing only so-so biz.

Charlotte St. Martin, exec director of the Broadway League — the trade association of legit producers and presenters — attributed the Rialto’s steadiness to a wide variety of shows that can appeal to a broad range of demos.

“The diversity of what is being offered on Broadway today is much greater than what was being offered as little as ten years ago,” she said.

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