Broadway's record showing

NEW YORK • Broadway rang out 2016 with a very big bang.

The 33 plays and musicals running last week brought in US$49.7 million (S$72 million), making it the highest- grossing week in Broadway history.

All around Times Square, records were toppled: It was the best week ever for long-running shows such as Chicago, Jersey Boys and The Lion King; the most money ever grossed at theatres built more than a century ago (US$911,000 by Oh, Hello at the Lyceum, which was built in 1903); the most performances ever by a single show during a seven-day period (17 by The Illusionists) and the most money ever grossed by a single show (US$3.3 million by Hamilton).

An astonishing 24 shows grossed more than US$1 million last week, including seven that grossed more than US$2 million, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Broadway League.

Three shows topped the US$3- million mark - Hamilton, Wicked and The Lion King. The grosses, for the week ending on Sunday, were 63 per cent higher than the previous week and 15 per cent higher than the same week the previous year.

The most significant factor appears to be pricing. The base prices for many shows are high and the premium prices charged over the holiday period were even higher. Twenty- four shows had an average price of more than US$100. And at Hamilton - now the industry leader in pricing - the average price was US$310 and the top price was US$998.

There were other factors contributing to the Broadway bonanza.

New York City was wrapping up a banner year for tourism - an estimated 60 million visitors, up from 58 million the previous year, said a spokesman for NYC & Co, the city's tourism agency.

The period between Christmas and New Year's is always popular for tourists - and lucrative for Broadway - but especially so this winter because Christmas and New Year's fell on weekends, and many people took off work the week in between.

Multiple shows that aim heavily at tourists did extremely well. Cirque du Soleil's first Broadway venture, Paramour, had its best week yet - at US$1.9 million - and The Phantom Of The Opera, the longest-running Broadway show, had its best-ever week too, also at US$1.9 million.

Broadway took advantage of the expected high tourism last week by staging more performances. The usual schedule sees shows staged eight times a week, but last week, 25 shows had nine performances.

Broadway is also on an upswing. Grosses and attendance have been growing for several years and the current season has seen strong starts for three new musicals - Natasha, Pierre And The Great Comet Of 1812; A Bronx Tale; and Dear Evan Hansen.

Several shows that had announced closing dates saw a surge of last- chance patrons. Matilda closed on Sunday after its best week ever (US$1.9 million) and Jersey Boys, which closes on Jan 15, set a record too (US$1.8 million).

But the good news is unlikely to last. January and February are soft months for Broadway. Thirteen shows are scheduled to close between Dec 31 and Jan 29 as theatres clear the decks for a round of openings in late winter and spring.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Broadway's record showing'. Print Edition | Subscribe