A lion roars on Broadway as box office hauls reveal winners

Jan 3, 2023, 5:44 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 3:19 pm
Confetti falls at midnight on the Times Square New Year's celebration, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, ...

Confetti falls at midnight on the Times Square New Year's celebration, early Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in New York. (Photo by Ben Hider/Invision/AP)

(Photo by Ben Hider/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — It was feast or famine at the Broadway box office as 2022 wound down, with eye-popping revenue for popular shows — including a staggering new Broadway record for “The Lion King” — not lifting all strugglers.

Twenty-one of the 33 shows available broke the $1 million mark for the week ending Sunday, and “The Lion King” made history with the biggest haul ever — an astonishing $4,315,264 over nine performances for a 25-year-old show with no stars. It took the crown from “Hamilton, the first Broadway show to crack $4 million, which it did with eight performances at the end of 2018.

“The Music Man” was close behind with two high-wattage stars in Sutton Foster and Hugh Jackman — $3,971,531 over nine shows — followed by “Wicked” with $3,152,679. The top average ticket price went to “The Music Man” with $285.80, just about a dollar more than “The Lion King.”

All shows bar one — “A Christmas Carol” — saw their numbers grow over the week ending Sunday. However, the usual bump was barely evident for “Topdog/Underdog,” with just $345,567 over eight shows, and “Ohio State Murders” pulling in just $311,893 to a half-empty theater over nine performances despite the presence of six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald. A revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy “Between Riverside and Crazy” starring the rapper Common pulled in just $260,085.

Box office numbers had been treacherous for new works even before the holidays — early closing notices were posted for shows like “Almost Famous,” “KPOP,” “A Strange Loop” and “Ain’t No Mo’.” The Broadway stalwart “The Phantom of the Opera” previously announced it would close in 2023 after 35 years. That announcement was met with a ticket spike.

The data is a reminder that Broadway has not fully rebounded from the pandemic, which wiped out live theater for 18 months and dried up its lifeblood — tourism.

Tom Kirdahy, a veteran producer behind the current starry revival of “The Piano Lesson” and the upcoming “New York, New York,” said audiences are steadily coming back and could be back to normal by spring.

“It’s very clear that buying patterns are different, but it’s equally clear that audiences are craving good work, and I think the challenge is to remind people that New York is actually a safe place to be and that theaters are safe places to be,” he said.

The 33 shows running on Broadway grossed $51,912,862 last week, the biggest seven-day period since the last week of 2019, when the box office earned $55,765,408. The holiday period is especially rough on performers and crew members who are usually asked to staff extra performances.

While January and February are among the bitterest months on Broadway, many producers were popping champagne after the latest numbers. The 26-year-old revival of the musical “Chicago” earned its biggest weekly total with $1,299,404 and “The Piano Lesson” starring Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington and Danielle Brooks became the highest-grossing August Wilson play on Broadway in history last week.

The Lea Michele-led revival of “Funny Girl” set a new box office record at the August Wilson Theatre with $2,405,901. And the new musical “& Juliet” broke the box office record at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, grossing $1,639,788 for nine performances. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” broke the house record at the Lyric Theatre, grossing $2,671,191 for its eight-performance week.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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A lion roars on Broadway as box office hauls reveal winners