The annual January chill knocked the overall Broadway temperature down by a whopping $19 million last week — but on the silver-lining side, everybody saw it coming, and last-chance business at soon-to-exit titles including “Motown” (pictured above) and “The Last Ship” helped some individual productions remain relatively healthy.
There are a slew of reasons for the Broadway decline, the first among them being the fact that tourists abandon the city after New Year’s so they can get back to work. Knowing this, a long list of shows opt to close in early January rather than face the winter slowdown. Last week, seven Broadway offerings (including “Cinderella,” “Once” and “Pippin”) shuttered, depriving the Main Stem of their contributions to the weekly pot.
Besides all that, last week included performances that were part of Kids Night on Broadway, during which participating shows offer one free ticket to a young theatergoer accompanied by one full-price-paying adult. That initiative had the biggest impact on family-friendly shows including “Wicked” (down more than $1.1 million to $1,593,224) and “The Lion King” (down $675,000 to $1,840,464).
Overall Broadway sales were down across the board, with the most equilibrium maintained by some of the shows holding out till MLK weekend (or just after it) to close, including “Motown” ($1,086,042) and “Last Ship” ($840,468). Also losing less ground were limited-run, star-driven plays including Bradley Cooper topliner “The Elephant Man” ($994,390), Hugh Jackman starrer “The River” ($668,724) and Glenn Close-John Lithgow outing “A Delicate Balance” ($582,284).
Also staying steady was “Honeymoon in Vegas” ($399,588), although sales remain low enough that producers must be crossing fingers for good reviews to spur sales. The previewing musical opens Thursday.
Starry comedy “It’s Only a Play” ($690,904), which spent the fall outselling every other play on the boards, dropped by more than 50% in its first week with Martin Short taking the place of Nathan Lane (who’ll appear in another show next month). Still, it’s a little too soon to see how much damage the loss of Lane — and the upcoming departures of Megan Mullally and Rupert Grint — will have on the production, given the overall downward trend all up and down Broadway.
The Rialto cume dropped last week by more than $19 million to $23.8 million for 29 shows now running. Attendance slid by 114,000 to 232,696, or 86% of overall capacity.