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In Summer, Nine Can Be Broadway’s Lucky Number

Shows such as 'The Book of Mormon' and 'Wicked' add extra perfs to boost earnings

Summertime looked a lot like Christmas on Broadway last week.

Not because of the grosses — which, while robust, didn’t approach the stratospheric heights of the year-end holidays — but because a couple of shows, “The Book of Mormon” and “Wicked,” each took advantage of the hot-weather tourism to tack an additional ninth perf onto a traditional eight-show sked.

Adding an extra show can be a gamble on Broadway, since the additional labor costs of a ninth perf (including increases from union overtime regulations) will offset the supplementary box office funneled into the production’s weekly pot. As recently as five years ago, producers usually only opted to add extra performances during the Christmas and New Year’s seshes, when they knew they could bank on the rush of holiday visitors.

But the last couple of years have seen producers of the Rialto’s biggest sellers recognize that summer tourism is often strong enough to make a ninth perf worth it. It certainly worked out last week for “The Book of Mormon” ($1,926,077), making almost $250,000 more than the prior sesh and muscling up toward the $2 million mark to  come in just behind “Wicked” ($1,986,489). “The Lion King” ($2,070,492) has also been known to add perfs during summer frames, although last week the show only needed the usual eight to break $2 million and rule the Top 10.

Like the previous frame, there were more titles in the millionaires club than there were spaces in the chart’s Top 10, with eleven productions ranging from new successes (“Kinky Boots” at $1,567,997) to old standards (“The Phantom of the Opera” at $1,101,647) breaking the $1 million mark.

Two new productions joined the fray, with Zachary Levi starrer “First Date” ($408,245) playing to auds at more than 90% of capacity, both respectable figures for a new musical with no title recognition to speak of. The return stint for “Forever Tango” ($300,253) filled houses at more than 80%, as did the final week of Alan Cumming starrer “Macbeth” ($389,845 for six).

With half a dozen productions playing to full houses, overall Broadway attendance came in at 90%, although a couple of the Street’s plays — “The Trip to Bountiful” ($400,813) and “The Nance” ($350,925) — came in at notably less than the average. That’s not unusual for nonmusicals, since the less razzle-dazzle options on the boards tend to have trouble attracting auds during big tourist frames. In an exception to that rule, though, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” ($665,076) continued to reap the benefits of its Tony wins.

Overall Broadway sales upticked just a bit to $23.2 million for 24 shows on the boards, while attendance climbed by about 10,000 to 217,926. With so many commercially strong titles to have joined the slate in the spring, Rialto B.O. tallies are keeping up with last year’s weekly numbers despite the fact that in 2012 there were four more productions running at this time than there are now.

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