Broadway’s ‘Idiot’ wards off sales chill

Green Day musical posts big gain in a down week

Broadway sales dropped as low as the winter temperatures last week — except at “American Idiot,” where Billie Joe Armstrong helped keep the box office warm.

The latter half of January is always a rough time on the Main Stem, as tourists stay home after holiday travel.

Producers of punk band Green Day’s rock opera “American Idiot” ($901,450) aimed to combat that trend with the star power of the band’s frontman Armstrong, who had earlier proved his ability to drive ticket sales in a spur-of-the-moment weeklong stint in the fall.

Armstrong returned in early January, then after a break was back on Jan. 18, helping to elevate sales last week by a whopping 46% vs. the prior frame.

Laura Linney topliner “Time Stands Still” ($425,058) also picked up a bit of steam in one of its final weeks on the boards.

Mostly, though, Broadway felt the seasonal chill, with only two shows topping $1 million — consistent powerhouse “Wicked” ($1,401,082) and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($1,338,162), playing seven previews after one sesh of only six.

Large-scale musicals that usually see the largest upticks in boom weeks also are often the ones to post the heftiest dips in fallow frames.

Last week tourist magnets “The Lion King” ($993,169), “The Addams Family” ($709,646), “Mary Poppins” ($571,885), “The Phantom of the Opera” ($557,476) and “Mamma Mia!” ($527,026) all posted declines of around 25% each.

Comparatively, musicals including “Jersey Boys” ($933,386), “Memphis” ($698,848) and “Million Dollar Quartet” ($427,608) looked downright solid.

Overall Broadway sales sank by $2.5 million, falling to $12.3 million for 19 shows on the boards. Contributing to the shortfall is the temporary absence of three shows, including mega-earner “The Merchant of Venice,” all on hiatus before return engagements later this season.

Last week’s tally is off almost $2 million compared to the same week in January 2010, when 23 shows were playing. Attendance last week came in at 144,000 vs. the 175,000 posted last year.

Look for overall sales to remain on the low end of the spectrum until the season heats up this spring, as new productions begin to bow and the tide of tourism swells again.