Alexander Hamilton never became president, but he was the king of the Broadway box office in 2016 as “Hamilton” nudged past Disney blockbuster “The Lion King” to top the chart at the end of a year that saw the musical explode into the pop-culture stratosphere and sweep the Tony Awards.
“Hamilton” earned $105.5 million in 2016, beating “The Lion King” ($103.2 million) by a nose. The show’s hugely profitable year comes as no surprise, of course, given the ultra-high demand for tickets and the rising prices of premium seats. Over Thanksgiving, “Hamilton” became the first Broadway show to earn more than $3 million in a single eight-performance week.
Although Broadway bookkeeping mostly follows a season calendar that begins and ends in May, the year-end box office tallies nonetheless provide a good mid-season snapshot of the health of the Broadway industry. With box office measured in weekly increments that run Monday through Sunday, bookkeepers at the Broadway League are counting the week ending Dec. 25 as the end of the 52-week year, with the 2017 calendar year beginning this week. (Bookkeepers will consider 2017 a 53-week year, as is periodically necessary to line up 365-day years with 52-week windows.)
“Hamilton” and the 19-year-old “Lion King,” which had been the biggest earner on the street for the previous three calendar years, were the only two shows to earn more than $100 million in 2016. Another of Broadway’s consistent hot tickets, “Wicked” ($89 million), followed them on the chart, with Disney’s “Aladdin ($78.2 million) and “The Book of Mormon” ($70.6 million) rounding out the Top 5.
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Two Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, “School of Rock” ($53.6 million) and “The Phantom of the Opera” ($46.2 million), landed spots in the Top 10. The composer’s third show on Broadway, “Cats,” has pulled in $22.2 million since it began performances over the summer.
Among plays, producer Scott Rudin made a strong showing on the year-end chart. The top-selling nonmusical of 2016 was Rudin’s production of Tony champ “The Humans” ($22.2 million), which began Broadway performances in late January, with the runner-up being Rudin’s current, strong-selling revival of “The Front Page” ($16.5 million). He was also behind productions of “The Crucible” ($11.7 million) and “Blackbird” ($7.9 million), among others — not to mention musicals like “Mormon” and “Shuffle Along” ($15.2 million).
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” a relative longrunner for a play, earned just under $16.5 million before it closed in early September.
The biggest-selling new musical addition from the fall has been “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” which has pulled in $11.1 million since it began performances in October. “Dear Evan Hansen,” the buzzy title that opened early this month, has tallied $5.4 million so far, and “A Bronx Tale,” which opened the same week, has made $5.7 million.
The overall Broadway cume for 2016 rang in at a calendar-year record of $1.37 billion, which tops the $1.36 billion reported in 2014 and the $1.35 posted last year. Attendance hit 13.3 milllion, another best-yet total for a calendar year.
In the weekly chart for the seven days that ended Dec. 25, “Hamilton” ($3,303,538) also topped the chart, once again breaking the $3 million mark with an eight-performance week. “Wicked” ($2,245,595) played a full eight performances, but many shows — including “The Lion King” ($2,128,859), “Aladdin” ($1,620,714) and “The Book of Mormon” ($1,346,744) — all played abbreviated seven-performance weeks in advance of this week, when many production will play nine shows in order to capitalize on holiday tourist traffic.
After a stellar bow, Broadway’s only previewing show last week, Cate Blanchett starrer “The Present,” continued to do big business, pulling in $943,984 for seven performance. “Dear Evan Hansen ($923,426) also did notably well for a seven-performance week in a smaller theater.
The week’s overall tally came in at $30.4 million, about on par with the previous week, with attendance dropping to 245,913 ahead of the spike that will come this week. Looking ahead, the 2017 calendar year will start off with a bang, since the week between Christmas and New Year’s is always Broadway’s biggest earner.