Entertaining Business: A Banner Year For Broadway

by May 28, 2015

Megastars, long-running musicals and a strong tourism climate are causing a boom on Broadway, according to the New York Times. The Broadway League reported record attendance during the 2014-15 season, as well as record ticket revenues.

Of course, it’s pretty easy to break ticket revenue marks, given that the cost of attending Broadway shows seems on an endless upward spiral. Indeed, the League said 40 Broadway theaters sold $1.36 billion worth of tickets this past season.

But those tickets went to a record 13 million people, who flooded Times Square and its surrounding streets to see Broadway shows. That means the average theatergoer paid about $104 for their experience, not including parking, concessions and the cost of a hotel stay.

Why was Broadway so hot this year?

Big stars. Famous actors and actresses trod the boards this year, including Hugh Jackman, Helen Mirren, and Broadway veterans Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Broadway also saw the return of some actors who have become well known on TV, such as Larry David and Matthew Morrison.

Major stars alone can’t carry a show, especially if they don’t handle the pressures of the stage, but the combination of their buzz plus a good production are enough to convince people to buy tickets.

Tourists. About 70 percent of Broadway tickets are sold to people from out of town, and this year Broadway theaters put on a special push to attract visitors from Brazil. They are the second-biggest group of tourists to visit New York, behind those from Britain.

Next week, the city’s tourism bureau is hosting an event for travel agencies from overseas, where six Broadway shows will preview their productions, including a new version of Fiddler On The Roof, which doesn’t open until December.

Musicals. Broadway has long been a place where musicals can run for years, and even decades. This year, according to the Times, “The Lion King” remains Broadway’s top grossing show, even though it opened in 1997. It brought in a record-breaking, $102 million last season.

The other top draws were “Wicked,” at $92 million, “The Book of Mormon,” at $84 million, and “Aladdin,” at $76 million. Three other recently minted hits, “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “Kinky Boots” and “Matilda,” grossed more than $50 million each. “Kinky Boots,” by the way, is in its first U.S. national tour and is selling out at theaters across the country. (I saw it at ASU Gammage, and the Phoenix audience loved it.)

Hits from overseas. Mirren appears as Queen Elizabeth II in “The Audience,” in which she starred in London. Another London hit, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is doing well without a star. The show is about a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome who forms a relationship with a neighbor’s dog. It has grossed $29 million since opening in September.

For story ideas, find people in your area who travel to Broadway to see shows. Find out how much they’ll spend on their trips. Talk to local theaters that host Broadway touring companies, and local companies that put on Broadway shows. There is tons of money in stories about Broadway. A great news peg is the Tony Awards, which air a week from Sunday.