Half-Billion Dollar Broadway Season Breaks a Record

News   Half-Billion Dollar Broadway Season Breaks a Record
 
The 1996-97 Broadway season, which officially ended May 31, is the most commercially successful ever. On June 5, the League of American Theatres and Producers released the numbers to prove it.

The 1996-97 Broadway season, which officially ended May 31, is the most commercially successful ever. On June 5, the League of American Theatres and Producers released the numbers to prove it.

On Broadway, 10.6 million people attended a Broadway show -- up 11.8 percent from last year's 9.4 million. This comes as little surprise to Broadway insiders, since nearly every theatre on Broadway was booked by mid-season, causing a bottleneck for plays and musicals hoping to open in time for Tony consideration. It's the largest audience in 16 years and second highest since the League started keeping score.

Broadway box office grosses were just $1 million shy of half a billion dollars -- up 14.5 percent from $436,000,000 in 1995-96. And this rise was not particularly due to increased ticket prices, since the average -- $47.24 -- rose only 2.5 percent over last year.

Exactly 37 shows opened on Broadway in 1996-97, with 34 out of a currently operating 35 theatres booked by mid-April.

News was not quite as good for touring shows, mainly because a Debbie Gibson Funny Girl and a Stefanie Powers Applause closed prematurely, leaving empty theatres and last-minute re-bookings. Even so, the 46 touring shows grossed $781.8 million, down 3.5 percent from the previous $810 million. Attendance was also down half a million, to 17.6 million viewers. The New York boom helped lift the total number of people seeing Broadway theatre across America to a record 28.2 million, up from 27.6 million in 1995-96. New York and touring productions combined raked in $1.3 billion, up from $1.24 billion. As the League put it, "the number of people who took in a Broadway production last season is greater than the total combined populations of the U.S.' ten largest cities."

Said League of American Theatres & Producers executive director Jed Bernstein, "I believe those of us in the theatre industry should welcome the competition offered by the recent wave of entertainment technologies. Advances such as the internet, CD-roms, virtual reality and laser disks have merely served to amplify the uniqueness of the live theatre experience. Audiences are discovering -- apparently in record numbers -- that one of the few places one can still enjoy entertainment in `real time' is at a live Broadway production."
[The league has been strongly marketing the concept of "live Broadway," (including designing a new logo of a spotlight hitting a star) to serve as a kind of quality-assurance brand name for professional Broadway touring companies across America.]

Here are the shows that opened during the 1996-97 Broadway season. (Please note that King David and The Wizard Of Oz were not eligible for Tonys this season because they opened in May -- making them still part of the Broadway season but past the deadline for Tony consideration.)


New Musicals (7)
Dream
Play On!
Jekyll & Hyde
Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass
Steel Pier
The Life
Titanic

New Plays (11)
An American Daughter
Barrymore
Julia Sweeney's God Said "Ha!"
Into the Whirlwind
It's a Slippery Slope
Sex and Longing
Skylight
Stanley
Taking Sides
The Last Night of Ballyhoo
The Young Man From Atlanta


Play Revivals (11)
A Doll's House
A Thousand Clowns
Hughie
London Assurance
Present Laughter
Summer and Smoke
The Gin Game
The Little Foxes
The Rehearsal
The Three Sisters (Roundabout)
The Three Sisters (Sovremennik)

Musical Revivals (4)
Annie
Candide
Chicago
Once Upon a Mattress

Special Attractions (4)
Dreams and Nightmares
John Gray on Broadway
King David
Wizard Of Oz
. -- By Robert Viagas and David Lefkowitz

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