The Playgoer: Broadway's Happy Holiday

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Broadway's Happy Holiday

In case you're wondering what's really behind the record-setting grosses on Broadway this holiday season, Mr. Riedel informs us:

...tourists were willing to pay top dollar to see shows. Nearly every musical that broke the $1 million mark sold large blocks of tickets at so-called "premium" prices of $250 to $300.

"Every year, we've added more premium price seats at Christmas," said a veteran producer. "As long as we keep doing that, we will keep breaking box office records."

Yup, that's one way to inflate your sales figures.

Sadder yet:
"Jersey Boys" also raised the price of non-premium seats from $110 to $120. Other shows will probably do the same in the New Year.
The post-Christmas week did see an uptick for Grey Gardens and even Company, by the way. And Spring Awakening continues to float on buzz.

But for non-celebrity driven plays, watch out. Little Dog Laughed, which in days of yore might have been a modest hit at reasonable prices, now plays to barely 40% capacity. Which is simply not enough to pay the rent.

As a contrast: Dog got great reviews and features what many call the performance of the season in Julie White. Nathan Lane in Butley got lame reviews, but has now, according to Riedel, recouped its money.

Now remember, 40% in a 1000 seat house is...yes, 400 people. Enough to sell out a large Off Broadway house every night. So once again we see that the audience for even commercial nonprofit nonmusical fare has a strict upper limit.

More: the stats for last week are in on Playbill, and the numbers tell the same story. Quite a week. Even the struggling shows--Grey Gardens, Company, Dog--showed capacity increases of 30%.

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