Hit plays and musicals such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Hadestown” powered Broadway ticket sales to record-breaking numbers in the 2018 to 2019 theatrical season.
Attendance hit 14.77 million while ticket sales topped off at $1.83 billion in grosses, according the Broadway League, the national trade association tied to the Great White Way. That’s a 7.8% season-over-season increase in terms of grosses, easily topping the $1.7 billion from the 2017 to 2018 season. It’s also a 7.1% increase in attendance, up from 13.79 million in the previous season. The League’s statistics aren’t based on the calendar year. It measured grosses and attendance between May 28, 2018, and May 26, 2019.
It was a season that fielded successful productions such as “Burn This,” “Tootsie” and “Network,” and one that benefited from continued popularity of shows such as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “Hamilton” that debuted in previous seasons. It will rank as the best-attended and highest-grossing season in Broadway recorded history. Of course, the theater business is helped by expensive ticket prices — it costs north of $100 for tickets to most plays and musicals, with popular shows such as “Hamilton” requiring the equivalent of a mortgage payment for balcony seats. But it’s still a sign that even at a time when streaming services are upending traditional media businesses such as cable and theatrical film releases, audiences still enjoy live theater.
During the 2018-2019 season, Broadway hosted 38 new productions. Thirteen of those were musicals (11 original, two revivals), 21 were plays (14 original, seven revivals) and four were special engagements. One sobering statistic for wouldbe investors: only 30% of shows break even or make a profit. Records may get shattered for the overall industry, but most shows fight to stay out of the red.