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Broadway Box Office: Strong Summer for Average Ticket Prices

Main Stem's cumulative sales went down last week, but average price paid per ticket rose

As summer starts to wind down, so does the Broadway cume — but last week average ticket price actually climbed, in what’s been a strong season so far in terms of the average price paid per ticket.

Overall ticket sales for the week ending Aug. 4 slid by more than $1 million to $23.1 million and attendance was off 12,000 to 217,266. But the average amount forked over for each ticket upticked by about $1.25 to a hearty $106.34, the latest in a string of unusually high showings this summer. Last summer at this time, the figure came in at $98.74.

Part of the explanation, of course, is that top ticket prices have been inching inexorably up for years now, and the increasing prominence of premium-price seating, especially in high-demand frames, has kept the overall Rialto average eternally on the rise.

But the other part of the equation is the fact that the spring season yielded an unusually high number of strong box office performers, so the slate is now loaded with titles that ticketbuyers are willing to shell out to see. So the averages at longstanding successes — $197.75 at “The Book of Mormon” ($1,730,668), $157.71 at “The Lion King” ($2,145,484), $134.73 at “Wicked” ($1,880,559) – have been joined new hot-ticket averages including $142.53 at “Kinky Boots” ($1,636,476), $131.10 at “Pippin” ($1,043,942), $120.54 at “Motown” ($1,423,791) and $111.50 at “Matilda” ($1,286,980).

There’s a rich-get-richer element at play here, when big-name shows that are already doing well reap even more rewards when demand is at its tourist-fueled summer elevation. Heck, “Lion King” has almost made a habit this summer of ringing in more than $2 million per frame: It’s done so the last five weeks running, and only one of those weeks was boosted by an additional ninth perf.

Meanwhile, the really new titles on the boards, overshadowed by their better-known peers, didn’t share in the same tourist-fueled bounty. One previewing tuner currently on the boards, “First Date” ($430,115), stayed about steady, with producers likely hoping for a bump from the reviews that will follow the show’s Aug. 8 opening. The other new musical in previews, “Soul Doctor” ($195,120), played its first full week of eight shows but has yet to pick up much momentum.

Some limited run productions, including plays “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” ($569,705) and “The Nance” ($352,327), will continue to exit as the summer wears on. That’ll bring the cume down, but this year the balance could be restored early with the first star-driven play revival of the season, Orlando Bloom topliner “Romeo and Juliet,” set to kick off perfs Aug. 24.

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