Broadway Box Office: Tackled by the Super Bowl

Everything from 'Motown' to sports-centric 'Bronx Bombers' got blitzed by New Jersey's big event

Bronx Bombers reviews Broadway

The prophets of doom turned out to be right last week, as the Super Bowl took a supersized bite out of Broadway sales that were already weakened by the annual January slowdown.

Box office slid some 13%, or $2.4 million, to $16.7 million for 26 shows on the boards. Attendance was down by more than 15,000 theatergoers to 183,092. That’s about on par with the same week last year, it turns out, but back then there were only 22 shows running. And given the hot streak Broadway B.O. has been on since spring 2013 yielded a bumper crop of strong-selling new musicals, last week’s figures look comparatively grim.

Super Bowl weekend is always a tough one for the Rialto, but it was made especially rough this year by the main event’s proximity to Gotham. A number of legiters expected the week to mirror what happens on the Street when a political convention is in town — hotels are packed, but none of the city’s visitors have the time or the interest for the Rialto. The theme park of Super Bowl Boulevard, set up right in Broadway’s front yard, distracted tourists and kept locals away, and matters were likely not helped by the fact that news outlets noted that Broadway was closed — true of Broadway the street, closed to car traffic for the week, but not of Broadway shows.

A consistently hot ticket made even hotter by its small theater, “The Book of Mormon” ($1,641,717) emerged unscathed and handily climbed the top 10 ahead of “Wicked” ($1,403,247) and “The Lion King” ($1,293,167). The only other show to play to full houses last week was “Twelfth Night”/”Richard III” ($907,006, a new house record at the Belasco Theater), one of the fall’s must-see plays and now in even higher demand in the final weeks before it shutters Feb. 16.

“After Midnight” ($584,044), the critics’ pick that has logged solid if unspectacular sales since its autumn opening, hung tough, posting a week-to-week gain likely spurred by last-minute sales from theatergoers wanting to catching topliner Fantasia Barrino before she turns over her guest-starring role to k.d. lang next week. Debra Messing starrer “Outside Mullingar” ($317,000) was also up, following a frame that accommodated press perfs and a comp-heavy opening night.

Otherwise, the majority of Broadway titles took a hit, as even habitual millionaires “Motown” ($978,954) and “Matilda” ($969,639) fell below the million-dollar mark. “Pippin” ($614,740) fell to its lowest tally since before the well-reviewed revival opened in April.

Last week it was hard enough for established shows to turn heads; the newer titles found themselves at an even bigger disadvantage. With that in mind, previewing tuner “The Bridges of Madison County” ($337,841 for seven) did OK, with attendance and sales faltering only somewhat vs. the previous sesh (when the tuner also played seven previews rather than the full eight). Baseball-centric “Bronx Bombers” ($137,015) saw revenue decline, but attendance was actually up with the start of press perfs.

In the silver lining department, at least legiters have gotten January, traditionally one of the Main Stem’s cruelest months, out of the way. Now they can look ahead to Valentine’s Day, which usually brings a date-night spike.