Broadway Box Office: Revving Up Before the Christmas Boom

Sales at big-name musicals including 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked' got an early start on the upcoming holiday bonanza

Broadway Box Office The Lion King

Who says Broadway has to wait until Christmas to start opening presents at the box office? Last week Rialto B.O., as if impatient for the spike that the current holiday week is sure to bring, began edging its way upward, with attendance on the rise and the entire Top 10, plus one, pulling in more than $1 million each.

Not every show on the boards climbed, but those that did tended to be the big-name titles for which demand is high enough to compel auds to shell out for higher ticket prices. The average price paid per ticket stepped up by more than $3 to $112.81, helping to push top dog “The Lion King” ($2,206,379) and “Wicked” ($2,153,08) past the $2 million mark — formerly a rare milestone that now, in the era of premium pricing, has become far more common.

“The Book of Mormon” ($1,962,932) broke the box office record at the Eugene O’Neill Theater for the umpteenth time, last week with an average ticket pricetag of a whopping $224.28. The Shakespeare double bill of “Twelfth Night/Richard III” ($845,435) also broke the house record, a feat made even more notable by the fact that nearly a quarter of the production’s ticket inventory is sold for $25 per ticket.

The imminent closing of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” ($1,203,125) has helped turn the musical in to a box office hero again, with the show slinging its way ever upward in advance of its shuttering in early January. Family-friendly tuner “Annie” ($1,037,800) also seems to be getting a boost of last-minute sales prior to its Jan. 5 closing.

Not every soon-to-shutter show logged gains, with “Big Fish” ($538,081) and “First Date” ($361,670) languishing in the shadow of the bigger-name attractions.

But another musical that, like “Annie,” also has a strong little-girl appeal, “Matilda” ($1,286,509), got a nice boost last week, pushing the show up the chart alongside fellow spring 2013 hits “Kinky Boots” ($1,719,272) and “Motown” ($1,407,739). Perennially popular old timer “The Phantom of the Opera” ($1,005,309) also pulled in enough biz to land a spot in the millionaires’ club.

As is the case in most tourist-heavy frames, plays had a tougher time attracting sales than razzle-dazzle musicals, with the exception of star-driven outings “Betrayal” ($1,276,143) with Daniel Craig and “700 Sundays” ($1,064,456) with Billy Crystal. None, however, posted sales that were dire.

Previewing Carole King musical “Beautiful” ($711,141) downshifted a bit, but still reported promising numbers for a new production with an unfamiliar title. Also previewing last week was Rebecca Hall topliner “Machinal,” the Roundabout Theater Company revival that earned $70,446 in its first four previews.

Overall Broadway cume rose about $1 million to $27.5 million for 30 shows now running, with attendance sliding up to 244,111. Look for those numbers to climb even higher this week, as the Christmas-New Year’s holidays bring a high tide of tourist auds to the Gotham area.