White-hot from the buzz of its newly minted megahit “Hamilton” and the enduring popularity of crowdpleasers including “The Lion King” and “Wicked,” Broadway set new records in billion-dollar sales and attendance over the 2015-16 season.
For the 52-week period that ended May 22, overall Broadway box office rang in at $1,373,253,725, up from the $1,365,232,182 posted for 2014-15. With premium prices driving up box office tallies for the street’s hottest tickets, that boost seemed a given, although it’s notable that the average price paid per ticket came in at $103.11, down from last season’s $104.18.
Attendance rose for the second year in a row, climbing past last year’s record to 13.32 million. That two-season rise follows a few years of seeing turnout waffle in the 11 million and 12 million range.
Helping to keep attendance up in 2015-16 was the tally of total playing weeks — that is, the number of weeks played by each production, tallied separately and then added together. This year’s 1,648 playing weeks marks the highest yet recorded by the Broadway League; last year the sum came in at 1,626.
All those figures underscore the fact that Broadway has been on the rise for a good decade now, as longrunning successes have grown into tourist destinations, productions have begun to tap new audiences and big-name Hollywood stars head to the stage with increasing frequency. This year the success of “Hamilton” — a topic of conversation everywhere from social media to the Grammys to late-night TV — has given Broadway the kind of pop-culture resonance that happens only very rarely.
This past year has not only added “Hamilton” to the mix but also spawned healthy earnings from newer titles such as “On Your Feet!,” “Waitress” and “School of Rock,” which all have made strides toward carving out an ongoing place for themselves. Even Broadway’s newest addition, Cirque du Soleil outing “Paramour,” looks like it has the potential to become a player at the Broadway box office.
Among non-musicals, there was no huge box office earner along the lines of Larry David in “Fish in the Dark” or Tom Hanks in “Lucky Guy” (unless you count “China Doll,” the Al Pacino-led David Mamet play that earned a lot of bad buzz but still sold like hot cakes in its early weeks). But “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” sold solidly all season, on a Broadway landscape where it’s rare for non-musicals to make a go of an extended run with no major star in the cast.
For its final week of the 2015-16 season, Broadway got a nice boost from a flood of city visitors, including the families of new grads at New York University and Columbia University (both of which held graduation ceremonies last week). Attendance climbed by a hefty 27,5000 to 296,350, or 86% of Broadway’s overall seating capacity for the week. Grosses stepped up $2.6 million to $28.8 million for 36 shows on the boards.