How bad was this winter on the Broadway box office?

Broadway Producers like excuses.

Jewish Holidays, Daylight Savings Time, the color of shirt Obama was wearing when he spoke to Putin about the Ukraine  . . . Broadway Producers can blame a weak box office on anything.

Some of these excuses are real.  Some, well, make you feel better.

What I’ve heard all around town since January 1st is how our unusually cold weather and all the snow we received (and that Supah Bowl) has had a serious negative impact on Broadway sales.

Anecdotally, I’ve got to agree.  I’ve seen a lot of shows posting lower numbers than they should be, and I know personally I’ve stayed at home wrapped in a blankie on multiple occasions instead of venturing out into the vortex and spending money.

But I’ve never been one to take anecdotal evidence.  Even if it’s my own!

So I decided to take a look at our grosses for the first eight weeks of this calendar year (all of January and February) instead of just the 13 week quarter, and compare it to the grosses over the same 8 week period for the last five years to determine how bad this winter really is.

Let’s look at the results of the first 8 weeks:

YEAR                    TOTAL GROSS FOR FIRST 8 WEEKS

2014                      $153,584,001
2013                      $140,738,709
2012                      $152,664,548
2011                      $122,272,893
2010                      $124,887,636

So, overall, the gross take for Broadway this past winter is actually up (!) over 9% from the previous year!  And last year was tougher than the year before (was it a bad winter too?) . . . and then you can see the grosses fall off dramatically (we’re better at variable pricing now, and full price tickets were lower overall).

But again, this year’s winter grossed more than last year’s.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well, there’s a piece of data missing.

In these same 8 weeks last year there were almost 14% fewer shows!  So it’s no wonder the overall take was lower.  Taking into account the number of shows for each year, let’s take a look at the average gross for each one during that period.

YEAR                    AVERAGE WEEKLY SHOW GROSS

2014                      $724,452.83
2013                      $769,063.98
2012                      $716,734.97
2011                      $702,717.78
2010                      $633,947.396

And there you see a more accurate picture.  The average weekly gross for a Broadway show during the first 8 weeks of this year is down almost 6% from the year previous.

And that’s the weather.

Well, it’s partly the weather.

We know we’ve flatlined our attendance.  So when there are more shows on the boards, and then an anomaly like this winter occurs , we end up spreading our audience out over more shows . . . and all the shows suffer.

There’s a strong argument to be made that Broadway is producing too much product right now to maintain its profitability probability (say that five times fast).

In other words, there are 40 Broadway theaters.  And maybe, sometimes, during cold, hard winters, they shouldn’t all be full.

All the Broadway vendors benefit when theaters are full.  The theater owners sure do as well, obviously.  And there is more employment for a lot more hard-workin’ folks.

But in winters like this, with this much content, the Producers and Investors can end up out in the cold.

 

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Comments
  • Ginger Lawson says:

    Hmmm so give out more lottery tickets to make the full house…or the house full haha!

  • Mike Rafael says:

    I’ve been looking at the same thing. Here’s another piece of data: shows are down about 500 tickets per week each from the average of the last 3 years. From 2010-2013, shows average about 8,050 tickets sold per week. Thus year – 7,560. And ATP is essentially flat year over year.

    lots of snow + Super Bowl in NJ + Winter Olympics = a bad Winter on Broadway.

    But there’s something else missing as well. This is the first Winter in 12 years without a Seasons Of Savings book. The discount booklet introduced after 9/11 to help shows during the down weeks in January & February.

  • Numbers without context.

    The 2013 numbers were still in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Shows closed early, Long Island and New Jersey were smashed to pieces, and you wonder, “…was it a bad winter too?” That’s either incredibly insensitive or disappointingly oblivious.

    Of the 40 Broadway houses, you make no allowance for the non profit subscription houses. That reduces the number and removes some fog from the analysis.

    Since no one can predict the weather,and the winter tends to get cold, do you propose to advise fellow producers to simply step aside and leave the winter months to the long running musicals?

    What happened to the theater logjam we’ve heard about this season? Do the producers that wish to put on their shows be discouraged from doing so, so as to not thin out a “flatlining audience”? Any possibility of growing the audience, or is that not in the realm of the possible? Do we just throw in the towel, and just open up 15 shows in the two weeks before the Tonys?

    But then again, we’ll always have those excuses.

  • Liz says:

    All this is true but when real theatre lovers like my family think that Raisin in the Sun (which I taught) would be awesome and we look up ticket prices and the last rows are going for $400 and the orchestra for over $1500, I get angry. I lived in and loved NYC for years and went to any play I could afford as a young Marketing Exec. Who could afford this?
    This is market exploitation and I say shame Denzel. So we’ll be seeing 4 other shows instead.

    • Two years ago, it was well beyond my budget and quite a sacrifice, but I paid $100 for “Death of a Salesman” starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. This was the cost for a preview ticket, with a coupon.
      Now this amount is de facto for a lousy seat. My friends were just in from England and cited out ticket prices as obscene.
      How can an average pay check to pay check theater goers afford such a luxury?
      Don’t you think your numbers also reflect these rising ticket costs year after year. It’s a different gross when a seat was $75 last year, and now that same seat is $100, quite a rise! Your 2014 numbers are now even lower should you take the rising cost of a ticket into account.

  • sex says:

    This would be one of your comme.

  • Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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