The Broadway season that ended on Sunday was strong but not stellar.
Overall attendance: up 4 percent to 13.8 million, according to the Broadway League. Grosses rose 17 percent, to $1.7 billion. The average price of a ticket for a musical gained 11 percent to $125.70 — thanks to strong demand for Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, Hello, Dolly! with Bette Midler and, increasingly, Mean Girls, which looks like a hit.
Yet attendance for musicals inched up just 0.8 percent. That’s an anemic increase, especially as 2017-18 had 53 weeks (vs. 52 weeks typically). To give the season its due, there were just 10 musical productions opening in 2017-18, half as many as in 2016-17 and the fewest in at least five years.
What goosed Broadway, besides rising prices and long-running hits? Springsteen on Broadway sold $63 million (and would’ve been higher had the Boss played more than five times a week and charged more.) Also, the play business was less dire. Play grosses rose 23 percent to $189 million, thanks to Harry Potter, Angels in America, The Iceman Cometh and Three Tall Women.
Even with the rebound, play sales were down from 2014-15, a season that birthed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Elephant Man and It’s Only a Play. Unlike musicals, average ticket prices for plays have been little changed for three years, fluctuating between $85 and $90. Harry Potter is a big seller, but long-running hit plays on Broadway remain few and far between.