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Broadway’s hits add up to billion-dollar year

Well-established names dominate year's Top 10

While one look at the Broadway B.O. for the 2010 calendar year proves that, typically, shows either got it, or they don’t, it also suggests that if a show’s got it, it’s probably had it for a while now.

The productions that dominate the year’s list of top-10 earners consist mainly of the usual suspects of big-name hits, including “Wicked” and “The Lion King.” Blighty incarnations of “Lion King” and “Wicked” also touted big 2010 B.O. on the West End, where “Lion King” brought in £34 million ($53 million) — the highest annual box office of any show in West End history — with “Wicked” also topping the £30 million mark.

Such longstanding global popularity is likely continuing to benefit from more cautious auds gravitating toward familiar material as ticket prices rise and the economy still suffers.

On Broadway, only a couple of new additions, “The Addams Family” and “Promises, Promises,” joined the Top 10, and the just-shuttered “Promises” won’t be around to appear on next year’s list. (Producers of “Promises” opted to close the show Jan. 2 rather than risk the potential B.O. dip from recasting topliners Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth.)

But the coming spring slate is unusually packed with buzzy big-budget hopefuls, including, for instance, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” “Priscilla Queen of Desert” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” So there’s prime potential for a shakeup in the 2011 Top 10. Among those three alone are a London hit (“Priscilla”), a well-known tuner benefitting from the canny star casting of Daniel Radcliffe (“How to Succeed”) and a powerful comicbook property in an attention-grabbing production (“Spider-Man”).

In general, overall activity this season is booming. All but three of Broadway’s 40 venues have announced spring bookings, so there’s an uncommonly fertile field on which to grow new hits.

It all points to season-to-season gains, with total sales so far this sesh (which began in May) hitting $665 million, up from the $641 million logged by this time last year. Attendance also is up, from 7.3 million to 7.6 million.

Calendar-year B.O. cume came in at $1.037 billion, a record for the industry and the second time the annual tally has topped a billion. Attendance rose to 12.11 million.