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Broadway Box Office: Thumped by the Pope, the U.N. and the End of 2-for-1 Tickets

A perfect storm of factors, from the pope to the United Nations to the end of Broadway week, combined to hold back Broadway box office, pushing down both sales and attendance.

The vast majority of shows now running, from “Aladdin” ($1,347,833) to “Wicked” ($1,426,156), saw declines, and there were a host of reasons for it. First of all, last week marked the end of this fall’s two-for-one ticket initiative Broadway Week, and past years have established that overall sales usually drop during the frame right after the annual autumn deal ends.

Then there’s the fact that the New York visit by Pope Francis over the weekend kept away some potential theatergoers, wanting to avoid the crowding and the transportation hassle. Plus, the ramp-up to the U.N. General Assembly brought a tide of politcos into town, snapping up hotel rooms that might otherwise have been booked by the tourists who keep Broadway sales aloft. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which fell this year in the middle of the week, also contributed to the slowdown.

When all was said and done, overall Broadway cume fell $1.3 million to $20.4 million, despite the fact that the number of shows running went up from 24 to 26. Attendance dropped about 10,000 to 204,904, or 84% of overall capacity.

A couple of popular offerings — “Hamilton” ($1,567,451), “The Book of Mormon” ($1,489,769), “Beautiful” ($1,042,972) — did manage to rise, but only by just a little, while previewing plays “Old Times” ($358,413) and “Fool for Love” ($239,768) gained because each stepped up to its first full week of eight performances.

Among the two shows added to the docket last week, “The Gin Game” ($321,528 for six previews), which stars James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in her first Broadway role in winning a Tony in 2013, began modestly but not without promise. With no stars in the cast and the giant shadow of “Hamilton” looming over the Broadway musical scene, “Dames at Sea” ($144,944 for five previews) faces a steeper uphill climb.

The one show that opened last week, “Spring Awakening” ($375,985), fell significantly, but that’s to be expected in a week that accommodated press previews and the heavily comped opening night performance. The production seems likely to get a boost in the coming weeks after the largely glowing reviews the musical received in the wake of its Sept. 27 opening.

Plays can often bear the brunt of a down week, and that proved true this week of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” ($593,677) and “Hand to God” ($205,062), which each took a hefty hit.But with September almost over and the fall season starting to kick into overdrive, look for Broadway to get a little more wind in its sails in the coming weeks.

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