×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

B’way B.O. hits the skids

Musicals slump, but plays turn heads

What goes up must come down — for proof, look no further than last week’s Broadway box office, which sank by more than $5.5 million in what was the first full frame of the Main Stem’s traditional post-holiday downturn.

At musicals up and down the Rialto, and especially at the long-runners heavily reliant on tourist traffic, the declines were widespread and major. “Mary Poppins” (off 47% to $546,571) and “Chicago” (sliding 43% to $433,628), for instance, were among the hardest hit, while “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($1,129,755) slumped by more than half a million dollars.

On the silver-linings side, at least producers saw it coming, since B.O. goes into the same freefall every year after the Yuletide spike. And January, it turns out, can be a surprisingly good time to be a play.

Almost every single nonmusical rose last week — including Lincoln Center Theater’s lauded revival of “Golden Boy” ($418,061), which logged its highest sales week so far. Scarlett Johansson starrer “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” ($839,273) climbed 10% (following a prior sesh during which Johansson was out for a single show), and big-money Al Pacino topliner “Glengarry Glen Ross” ($944,347) returned to its usual seven-perf week following a frame of just five shows.

The trend-busting uptick at plays in an overall slow week can be attributed to the fact that while razzle-dazzle tuners dominate the attention of holiday auds and family outings, the January slowdown allows local theatergoers — the primary demo for non-musicals — a chance to catch up on less flashy titles, often with the encouragement of wintertime ticket discounts.

Hence similar rises at “The Heiress” ($444,970), starring newly anointed Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, as well as at “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” ($281,137), “The Other Place” ($215,122) and “Picnic” ($193,935), despite the fact that both “Other Place” and “Picnic” opened last week.

Tuners had to grin and bear it, but there was enough demand for popular offerings to keep four shows in the millionaires’ club. “The Book of Mormon” ($1,630,961) is making a habit of leading the pack in slow frames, last week topping the chart ahead of “The Lion King” ($1,620,752), “Wicked” ($1,519,043) and “Spider-Man” ($1,129,755).

Broadway cume was down $5.8 million to $17.8 million for 24 shows on the boards — five fewer than the prior sesh, which included a spate of early-January closings. Attendance fell to 187,749, but that at least was close to 80% of overall capacity, which seems like not a bad tally for a winter frame.

Week’s overall cume looks low compared to the $20.9 million logged during the same sesh last year, but that week included the weekend before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which can often put a little wind in Broadway’s sails.

More Legit

  • Ben Platt Variety Power of New

    Ben Platt on Coming Out and the Queerness of 'The Politician'

    Ben Platt never imagined he would one day star in a series like “The Politician.” “I didn’t think I could be a star of a show in general starting out. I think I was like, ‘I’ll do Broadway. I can be on stage and I can play Jimmy in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and Nathan Detroit [...]

  • Michael Jackson in concert in Milton

    Michael Jackson Musical to Open on Broadway in Summer 2020

    “MJ,” a musical based on the life and career of Michael Jackson, will open on Broadway in summer 2020. Preview performances will start July 6 before its official debut on Aug. 13. The stage show, which will include songs like “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and “Smooth Criminal,” was originally [...]

  • The Wrong Man review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Wrong Man'

    Credit songwriter Ross Golan for the seamless quality of “The Wrong Man,” his mesmerizing musical about a good man who deserves a good life but seems to attract nothing but bad luck. The show’s inventive book, music, and lyrics were all penned by this multi-hyphenate talent who was named 2016 BMI Pop Songwriter of the [...]

  • Kristin Chenoweth Broadway

    Listen: Kristin Chenoweth Wants to Write a Broadway Musical

    Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t just want to star in Broadway musicals. She’s thinking about writing one, too. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “I think about it a lot,” Chenoweth said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “I want someone to collaborate with me on a story I have, and it would be [...]

  • The Man in the White Suit

    West End Review: 'The Man in the White Suit'

    As a rule of thumb, when adapting something, changing the tone and/or style for the new medium is a wise move — so long as the rethink fits or improves the original. If only that were the case with this fitfully amusing but enervating stage adaptation of “The Man in the White Suit.” Once a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content