Broadway box office topped itself last week, with the New Year’s frame setting a new record as the highest-grossing and best-attended week in the Rialto’s history.
Sales came in at $42.8 million for 37 shows running, with attendance hitting 346,913, or 94% of total capacity. Broadway’s overall attendance in 2014 rose to 13.13 million, up 13% compared to 2013.
It’s usually Christmas that gives Broadway the biggest holiday boost — as was the case last year, when sales hit $38.8 million over the Christmas frame and $31.1 million over New Year’s. But with both Christmas and New Year’s falling on Thursdays, the 2014 holiday schedule created two long weekends that many vacationers decided to turn into one long break, thereby clogging Broadway with city visitors all throughout last week.
That helped “Wicked” ($2,740,642) log the highest-grossing eight-performance week in Broadway history (and set similar records with touring productions in L.A. and Detroit). “The Lion King” ($2,514,994) broke a house record for an eight-performance week (it also set a new house record in London with nine performances), while “The Book of Mormon” ($2,224,280), playing nine performances last week to take advantage of holiday traffic, broke its house record too. “Aladdin” ($1,842,291), “It’s Only a Play” ($1,455,818) and Bradley Cooper starrer “The Elephant Man” ($1,069,102) broke additional house records for eight-perf weeks.
Helping to push up box office and attendance was the unusually crowded holiday slate (37 shows vs. 30 for the same weeks last year) as well as the fact that a whole slew of titles — “Cinderella” ($1,873,246), “Once” ($967,968), “Pippin” ($907,253), “Side Show” ($810,486, the production’s highest weekly gross ever), “This Is Our Youth” ($569,187, ditto) and “The Real Thing” ($462,361) — benefited from last-minute business prior to closing over the weekend.
Also adding to the Main Stem’s holiday pot were the final 12 performances of “The Illusionists” ($2,217,405), the magic show that proved hugely popular in its brief Broadway run, and the quickie concert run of “The Temptations and the Four Tops on Broadway” ($819,461). “The Last Ship” ($953,165), getting some wind in its sails thanks to composer Sting’s appearance in the show, reported an individual best, as did “Cabaret” ($1,051,850), powered by current topliners Emma Stone (now sticking with the show through Feb. 15) and Alan Cumming.
But the year-end crowds didn’t turn out for every title. The well-received Broadway run of Pulitzer Prize winner “Disgraced” ($386,752) slowed a bit, and producers announced it would end its run March 1, while new musical “Honeymoon in Vegas” ($409,674), opening next week, is still looking to establish a profile with theatergoers. On the other hand, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Broadway debut, “Constellations” ($478,445), also opening next week, added some nice momentum, particularly for a nonprofit production in a small house.
With two weekly sales booms notched in its belt, Broadway now has the annual winter slowdown ahead of it, with overall sales certain to plummet given the fleeing tourists and the number of productions that exited over the weekend. Dynamic pricing and sales initiative Broadway Week will help keep B.O. from drying up completely, but a major influx of momentum may not return until the spring, when new productions crowd in and spring break season starts.