Winning the Tony Award can often make a difference to a show's box office health, but simply being open around Tony time can help bump up receipts and attendance.
All six of the year's new musicals have struggled mightily for attention, with Play On! succumbing early to low attendance and lukewarm reviews. Producers of the other musicals are hoping television coverage, full-page New York Times ads, and exposure on the Tony Awards will help their cause.
According to figures released by the League of American Theatres & Producers, all the new musicals -- including, ironically, Play On! in its final week -- rose in their May 12-18 grosses.
Gaining most was The Life, grossing more than $350,000 and rising 22 percent beyond the previous week to hit a 90 percent attendance figure. Titanic also showed an impressive gain in attendance, 16 percent more than the previous week, for a total of 90 percent of its potential weekly take. This leaves the Maury Yeston/Peter Stone production less than $1,000 behind Steel Pier, the week's top grossing new musical. (Pier took in $449,538; Titanic took in $448,573.) Even Dream showed an encouraging up-tick, pushing over $205,000 for the week with a 14 percent rise in income on its single Best Choreography Tony nomination.
For a complete look at the Broadway boxoffice figures for the week ending May 18, see the story "Broadway Grosses May 12-18" in Theatre News. As ever, straight plays have a tougher row to hoe. Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter, though not nominated for a Best Play Tony, is doing the best of the new plays, at $211,216. The Last Night Of Ballyhoo continues to struggle, with grosses totalling only $143,701 at a 68 percent attendance rate. The Young Man From Atlanta, Horton Foote's Pulitzer-winning drama, which had a 2 percent rise in attendance -- to just 32 percent. The show grossed $87,739 -- a mere $5,000 more than the lowest-grossing show on Broadway, Defending The Caveman, which plays only six times a week and has only one actor.
Star power and a Tony nomination is no doubt helping Christopher Plummer in Barrymore approach the $200,000 mark, while Charles Durning and Julie Harris aren't quite raising the ante for The Gin Game, down 6 percent attendance this week to less than half a house.
Michael Hartman of the Boneau/Bryan-Brown office, which represents both Steel Pier and Titanic, told Playbill On-Line the Tony nominations for both shows "definitely helped" the show gain audiences. "But also more people are getting in to see the shows, and word of mouth is spreading. A little time has passed since the critic bashing of that week of crazy openings. In the end, the quality of the show is what builds an audience."
As for revivals, the award and nomination-laden Chicago continues playing to sell-out houses, while the heavily subscribed Roundabout Theatre is seeing 96 percent attendance for the Brian Bedford starrer, London Assurance.
--By David Lefkowitz