Broadway celebrated 2019 with a slew of milestones: highest-grossing week and year in history and best-attended week and year since at least 1984, according to the Broadway League.
Long-running shows such as Wicked ($3.4 million), The Lion King ($3.7 million) and Hamilton ($4 million) recorded their best sales last week and charged their highest average prices, with tourists continuing to flock to Broadway’s biggest brands.
Hamilton, whose composer-lyricist, Lin-Manuel Miranda, returns to the show next week for a short engagement in San Juan, Puerto Rico, became the first Broadway show to clear $4 million over eight performances.
Broadway overall grossed $57.8 million, vs. $50.4 million for the last week of 2017, the previous record. Attendance was 379,000 for the week and 14.4 million for the year. Sales were $1.8 billion for 2018, vs. $1.6 billion for 2017.
The average ticket for the week, $153, was eclipsed by the $164 average in the last week of 2017, only because Bruce Springsteen’s blockbuster engagement closed on Dec. 15.
Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Jeff Daniels, sold $1.7 million. Producers, led by Scott Rudin, said it was the highest-grossing week for an American play. (Harry Potter, the highest grossing non-musical, at $2.5 million, originated in London.) Mockingbird’s average ticket was $146, high for a play but below the $167 for Network, starring Bryan Cranston. Lee Hall’s adaptation of the 1976 movie in the Belasco Theatre has 40 percent less capacity than Mockingbird, in the Shubert.
A few years ago, grossing $1 million a week was the equivalent of hitting a Broadway home run. Last week. all but three musicals surpassed $1 million: The Prom, which came close, at $937,000 over nine performances; and Once on This Island and Head Over Heels, which close on Sunday.
The last week of the year is typically Broadway’s best-attended seven days, as tourists come for the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the ball drop in Times Square — and many shows have nine performances. Productions capitalize on the demand to maximize operating profits, ahead of what are typically the dog days of January and February.
On Dec. 20, I compared prices for the best seats at selected musicals for the last Saturday night of December and January. In an extreme example, prices for the remaining orchestra seats close to the stage for Disney’s Frozen were 89 percent higher on Dec. 29 than on Jan. 26. (Note that prices vary from day to day and row to row.)
Slightly complicating the analysis: Jan. 26 coincides with a two-for-one deal called Broadway Week. As a result, some shows increase prices in some sections to partially offset the promotion, said ticketing consultant Mike Rafael.
|Musical||Prime Orchestra Seats 12/29/2018||Prime Orchestra Seats 1/26/2019||Christmas Week Premium|
|Dear Evan Hansen||$450||$350||29%|
|The Lion King||$277||$215||29%|
|The Book of Mormon||$477.50||$352.50||27%|
|My Fair Lady||$399||$325||23%