No amount of extreme cold could shield the smell of money last week on Broadway, as the industry had its best week ever financially. Attendance was amazing, the industry saw the highest cumulative gross in the history of ever, and many shows shattered their house records. While many people were welcoming 2017 with sour grapes, Broadway veterans celebrated the box office take last week.
I’m going to take a slightly more pessimistic take on the record-breaking news: a huge part of this had to do with how the holidays fell. For example, Forbes recently reported that “Santa missed his usual date with Broadway” and says the record breaking New Years sales were “even more impressive given that the Christmas/Hanukkah frame was just $30.4 million, a record low.” The reality of the situation is: the sales played out the way they did as a function of the calendar. We see the bulk of bolstered sales for the holidays occur between Christmas and New Year’s—not before and not after.
Typically, Week 52 (Christmas Week) and Week 1 (New Year’s Week) are two of the highest grossing weeks in a calendar year for a Broadway show. If the best sales occur between Christmas and New Year’s, then we’d need part of this to fall during Week 52 and part to fall during Week 1 in order for both weeks to benefit from the bump. This year, that entire period occurred during Week 1 (New Year’s Week) because of the holidays falling on Sundays. That’s why you see the industry having a terrible Christmas Week and record-breaking New Year’s Week… But we’re used to having two amazing weeks.
Many shows issued press releases about the record-breaking sales they experienced during New Year’s Week. While impressive, if you take in the above and consider that a bunch of shows broke records and distributed press releases about it, it’s admittedly far less unique and impressive. You have the third engagement of The Illusionists shattering the Palace Theatre record at a gross of $2.4 million, but that’s for a sneaky 17 performances. Oh, Hello broke the Lyceum record, and all three of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows (Cats, School of Rock, and Phantom of the Opera) broke respective records with grosses hovering around $2 million for the week.
We should definitely celebrate Broadway’s success last week, but it should be taken with a grain of salt… We will likely break more records in another 7 years when our currency is further inflated and the holidays fall on Sundays again.
Curious of what records were broken on Broadway last week? Here’s the list as reported by Forbes:
Highest total gross in a single week: $49.68 million
Most tickets sold in a single week: 359,495
Highest average ticket price: $138
Highest gross for a single show: Hamilton ($3.33 million)
Most shows breaking house records: 13
Most shows above $1 Million: 24
Most shows above $2 Million: 7
Most shows above $3 Million: 3
Most shows above $1 Million by the same composer: 3, by Andrew Lloyd Webber