The 2000-01 Broadway theatre season, which officially ended May 27, 2001, has proved the best ever, both in grosses and audience attendance. According to figures released by The League of American Theatres and Producers, box offices took in a devil-may-care $666 million over the past 52 weeks, with attendance nearing 12 million.
Nearly every category saw a rise from the year before — which itself had enjoyed record grosses ($603 million), if not attendance. Rising ticket prices and the resurgence of straight plays helped fuel the high numbers, with the average paid admission jumping from $52.96 to $56.
Over the past year, Broadway plays grossed $94,451,591, up from $84,189,909 year before (but less than the $86,769,724 earned in 1998 99). On the other hand, musicals took in a record $571,117,233, more than $50 million higher than last year's $515,993,564. The boost can likely be ascribed to the continued strength of The Lion King, the rise of multiple Tony nominees The Full Monty and The Producers, and the longevity of stalwarts Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera (not to mention Cats and Miss Saigon, which both ended their runs earlier in the season). It also helps that the top ticket on Broadway now costs $99 (plus $1 theatre restoration fee), and several shows bump their $80 or $85 top price to $90 during the holiday season. In 2000-01, Broadway's average paid admission jumped from $52.96 to $56.
All told, plays, musicals and "specials" (there was only one, the Tony winning Blast!) grossed $666,197,054, up from 1999-2000's $603,238,028.
On the attendance front, 11,895,528 people took in a Broadway show this season, beating the 1998-99 record of 11,665,684. 9,892,819 folks took in musicals, 1,986,549 folks saw plays. A total of only 28 new shows opened on Broadway in 2000-01 (down from 37 the year before), though in this case, a lower number meant good news. From the very start of the season, theatres were nearly all booked and stayed that way, with much less turn-over than usual. More shows could have opened, but there wasn't room for them to come in.
Eleven musicals opened in 2000-01, seven new (A Class Act, The Full Monty, The Producers, Jane Eyre, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Seussical, Patti LuPone's matters of the heart) and four revivals (Follies, Bells Are Ringing, The Rocky Horror Show, 42nd Street). Sixteen plays opened, nine new (The Dinner Party, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Proof, The Gathering, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Invention of Love, King Hedley II, Stones in His Pockets, George Gershwin Alone) and seven revivals (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Betrayal, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Best Man, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Macbeth, Design for Living). The aforementioned Blast! was the only "special."
Asked for a comment about the season's numbers, League President Jed Bernstein told Playbill On-Line, "Hooray!"
Asked to elaborate, Bernstein added, "What's really gratifying is the attendance increase. That's really the acid test. Grosses will go up as ticket price goes up. But the attendance means more bodies are coming. And when you compare those numbers to six or seven years ago, it's not too shabby."
The news was not so great on the Road front, however. The previous two Broadway seasons offered slim pickins for desirable touring fodder (The Wild Party, The Civil War, The Scarlet Pimpernel(s), Parade, Marie Christine, etc.) and the results show in the final tallies.
There were only 823 "playing weeks" for touring shows, down from 888 the year before and well below the 1,100-1,300 range throughout the 1990s. Touring shows grossed $541 million, down from 1999-2000's $572 million and way down from 1995-96's record $796 million. Attendance was at 11 million, down from 11.7 million in 1999-2000 and the lowest since 1989-90's 11.1 million.
Nevertheless, League President Bernstein takes heart from recognizing that "The road is very cyclical," and that some Broadway shows from the past two seasons are likely to become Road warriors. "There's tremendous optimism at the moment. We've got the Disney shows out there, the eminent Producers, Full Monty, Kiss Me, Kate and other big titles coming. I think we'll see a nice upswing as those shows motivate audiences in terms of both subscriptions and single ticket sales.
"It can be difficult outside New York," continued Bernstein. "Even with some successful cities, you only get 12-14 weeks a year, so it's hard to keep [Broadway] in everybody's face all the time. But I think we are on the front end of a much rosier picture."
— By David Lefkowitz