Broadway’s poised to report its third consecutive season of record sales — by a nose.
With the official 2015-16 season ending on Sunday, grosses are up 0.6 percent from a year earlier to $1.34 billion. Attendance is 1.6 percent higher to 13.02 million, also on track for a record. While Hamilton has generated daily headlines since previews began in July 2015, its sales this season were eclipsed by stalwarts The Lion King and Wicked. That should change as producer Jeffrey Seller and colleagues continue raising ticket prices amid feverish demand.
The average Broadway ticket is on track to decline for the first time in decades. So far this season it’s down by almost a dollar, to $103.24. But given those ever-rising Hamilton prices — not to mention the astronomical numbers in the secondary market, which don’t show up in Broadway League stats — it’s early to cite a trend.
Just four shows this season announced that they fully repaid investors: An Act of God, the David Javerbaum comedy with Jim Parsons that returns in two weeks with Sean Hayes; China Doll, the David Mamet drama with Al Pacino; and The Illusionists and Penn & Teller on Broadway. Hamilton recouped months ago, according to two production sources, and skipped the press release. (Producers aren’t required to say when they make investors whole, but usually do.)
A year ago at this time, there were at least seven announced hits for 2014-15, including star vehicles for Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman, Larry David, Helen Mirren, and Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Celebrity plays didn’t gel as well this season: Failures included The Gin Game with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, Hughie with Forest Whitaker, Sylvia with Broderick and Misery with Bruce Willis. The new musical Waitress, which last week grossed a near-capacity $981,000, looks like a possible hit.