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
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
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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