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Broadway Box Office: Hugh Jackman Flexes His Muscle in ‘The River’

Hugh Jackman Broadway
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Hugh Jackman made it rain at the Broadway box office last week, as the initial performances of his topliner “The River” yielded the kind of numbers that’d be encouraging for a sizeable musical, much less an intimate three-character play in one of Broadway’s smallest theaters.

“The River” pulled in $348,102 for three previews, a stellar total for a production playing at Circle in the Square, which seats less than 700. The show played to standing-room crowds and posted an average price paid per ticket of $161 — a feat even more notable given the fact that at each performance, 40 tickets sold for $35 and another 80 went for $95.

Those early numbers suggest Jackman, one of Broadway’s top-dollar draws, will drive “The River” further up the chart next week, joining “It’s Only a Play” ($1,338,059) among starry non-musicals that can rival sales at tourist-magnet tuners. Also logging strong numbers in a small theater was Glenn Close starrer “A Delicate Balance” ($850,150), while critics’ darling “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($862,004) ran with the big dogs in the Top 10.

Elsewhere on the boards, the revival of fan-favorite musical “Side Show” ($349,563 for six previews) played its first frame to middling sales. The first time around the well-received 1997 musical played a disappointingly brief run; legiters will be watching now to see if the show (in a newly revised version) can bring in crowds with the help of a cult following, a glamour-centric marketing plan and a production helmed by Bill Condon.

Despite the additions to the slate, overall Broadway cume fell more than $2 million thanks in part to the annual hit of Halloween. Every year the holiday distracts people from the Main Stem with trick-or-treating and costume parties; this year it fell on a Friday, which otherwise is one of the most reliable moneymakers of the Broadway week. Two more events that usually bring Broadway down, the time change and the New York City Marathon, both happened Nov. 2 and also helped hobble sales.

Total Broadway sales came in at $23.5 million for 34 shows now running, with attendance down almost 16,000 to 239,269.

The recently opened Sting musical “The Last Ship” ($495,069) fell, as did “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” ($498,001) with new topliner Michael C. Hall, but the wild card of Halloween makes it hard to read too much into those developments. “If/Then” ($404,308) also took a tumble.

This week, though, auds should prove sufficiently recovered from their overdose of fun-sized candy to head back to Broadway, with sales likely to pick up in advance of the spike that will come with Thanksgiving.