Hamilton musical sets record

It made the most money in a single week by a Broadway show

NEW YORK • History is happening in Manhattan: Hamilton has set a record for the most money ever made in a single week by a Broadway show.

The musical, which attracted national attention just before the week began, with criticism from United States President-elect Donald Trump of its quality and the manners of its cast, grossed US$3.3 million (S$4.7 million) last week.

That is a huge number on Broadway, where only a handful of unusually strong shows gross more than US$1 million in a week and most pull in far less.

Hamilton, which won the Tony Award this year for best new musical, is now the first Broadway show to gross more than US$3 million for an eight-performance week.

In 2013, Wicked grossed US$3.2 million during a week in which that show had nine performances, one more than usual.

Hamilton, which uses hip-hop music and a diverse cast to explore the life and death of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, also set a record for the highest premium ticket price charged by a Broadway box office - US$998 - although some people have paid more buying tickets from resellers. The previous premium ticket price record was US$700, for Barry Manilow On Broadway, in 2013.

It is not clear how many seats Hamilton sold for a US$998 box-office price, but the show's high average paid admission during Thanksgiving week - US$303, which is also a Broadway record - suggests that a substantial number of seats were sold for a premium (these are the official box-office prices - many people pay more buying tickets from resellers).

And it now seems clear that, barring a dramatic and unforeseen reversal of fortunes, Hamilton will be the top-grossing show this season, overtaking The Lion King, which has held the top spot through much of its long run.

The week was a bonanza for Broadway, as it included Thanksgiving, which is generally the second most lucrative period of the year after Christmas and New Year. Tourists to New York are plentiful and sought-after shows regularly increase their premium prices during those weeks.

Thirteen shows grossed more than US$1 million during the week, including four that exceeded US$2 million - Hamilton, The Lion King, Wicked and Aladdin. For Hamilton, the strong week follows a weekend of unexpected drama in which the vice-president-elect, Mr Mike Pence, attended the show.

The cast addressed him afterwards from the stage, asking him "to work on behalf of all of us", and Mr Trump reacted unhappily on Twitter.

But the show is, at least in the short-term, insulated from any financial effect from public reaction, positive or negative, over such an episode because it is sold out for months into the future.

Overall, the 34 shows running during the week that ended on Sunday grossed US$35.3 million, making it the highest-grossing Thanksgiving week, according to figures released by the Broadway League. The figures are not adjusted for inflation.

The week was not, however, the best attended - there were two years in which more people attended Broadway shows over Thanksgiving, including last year.

Overall attendance is up, if only slightly - 0.1 per cent - with a number of promising shows yet to open.

Natasha, Pierre And The Great Comet Of 1812, is one of the new musicals.It stars singer Josh Groban and opened to strong reviews. It has grossed more than US$1 million every week except one during which the singer was out sick.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton musical sets record'. Print Edition | Subscribe