In what is becoming an annual story, Broadway again broke box office records during the 1997-98 season. According to Variety, the Great White Way took in more than $557 million, an 11.6 percent jump over last year's $499.5 million. A even more remarkable feat was the season's attendance figure of 11,283,378, a 4.2 percent increase over the long-standing record of 10,822,324 set in 1980-81. The attendance during the 1996-97 season was 10,318,217.
The record numbers can be, in large part, attributed to two phenomena: The New Amsterdam Theatre and the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Both Broadway houses opened for business during the past season, Disney opening The Lion King in the first and Livent bringing its Ragtime to the latter. Together, the two hit musicals accounted for $44 million of the $57 million jump in Broadway income, to say nothing of the theatres' contribution to attendance figures.
The season officially ended May 31 and covered 52 weeks. There were 32 new productions during the year (last season saw 38), and ticket prices averaged $49.39, a leap of nearly a dollar over last season.
For a wrapup of events onstage and backstage this season, see Biggest News Stories of 1997-98 in U.S. Theatre News.
-- By Robert Simonson