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Broadway House Records Smashed in Bountiful Holiday Week

Wicked Production Still - H 2012
Willemijn Verkaik as Elphaba in "Wicked"

Among several productions that broke records in their respective theaters, "Wicked" reset the top weekly tally with $2,947,172, while "The Lion King," "The Book of Mormon," "Annie" and "The Phantom of the Opera" also scaled new heights.

NEW YORK – House records fell like dominoes across Broadway during the busy holiday week, where a string of shows reaped the bounty of year-end theatergoing, registering their strongest seven-day box office performances to date.

Total grosses for the week ending Sunday Dec. 30 were $37,441,497, with 31 shows on the boards and attendance of 295,432. That fell just a fraction short of the previous season’s end-of-year holiday week, which also included New Year’s Day. The total that year was $37,657,453 for 34 productions, with 321,152 admissions.

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While no overall box office record was set, several shows posted their best-ever numbers, led by perennial chart-topper Wicked, which set a new Broadway record for the highest weekly gross. The musical backstory to The Wizard of Oz raked in $2,947,172 for the week ending Dec. 30, narrowly topping the previous record held by Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which earned $2,941,794 for the seven days ending Jan. 1, 2012.

Entering its tenth anniversary year, Wicked also set a new North American touring record for a one-week gross with $2,755,070 in St. Louis. The combined weekly haul for the show’s Broadway production and two national tours was a whopping $7,287,645, with its cumulative New York total now at $701.5 million.

However, Spider-Man was no slouch, coming in second on Broadway with a gross for the week of $2,716,990. While producers have been shy about predicting a recoupment schedule for the most expensive show in Broadway history, pundits who foresaw a steep drop-off after the initial media fascination waned have long since been proven wrong. The show’s New York gross has now hit a cumulative total of $153.5 million, placing it among Broadway’s top 20 all-time high earners.

Also cracking the exclusive circle of shows that grossed more than $2 million during the holiday week were The Lion King, The Book of Mormon and current-season newcomer Annie, which opened in November.

Given the vast number of families who flock to Broadway shows during the Christmas-New Year period, it’s no surprise that Disney was rolling in cash with its three productions.

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Now the fifth-longest running show and highest grossing production in Broadway history, The Lion King set a new house record at the Minskoff Theatre with $2,666,616 for nine performances, bringing its cumulative total for the 15-year-old New York staging to a massive $923.5 million. It was also a banner week for the show’s national touring production, which smashed the house record at the San Francisco Orpheum with $2,100,980. Touring productions of The Lion King have grossed north of $928 million to date.

In its first end-of-year holiday appearance on the boards, Disney’s Newsies also set its seventh new house record at the Nederlander Theatre, grossing $1,396,410. Stablemate Mary Poppins didn’t set a new record, but posted the fourth-best week of its six-year run at the New Amsterdam with $1,487,252.

Also tapping the family market, the revival of Annie shattered the house record at the Palace Theatre, with a gross of $2,054,848.

House records have barely been charted for The Book of Mormon before being pulverized many times over during its run. The Tony-winning sensation set a new high for the 43rd time at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway, grossing $2,158,595. Both of the show’s national touring productions also broke house records during the holiday week, in San Francisco ($1,607,677) and Chicago ($1,645,201).

Wrapping its debut New York limited seasonal engagement on a high on Dec. 30, A Christmas Story, The Musical set a new record for the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for the second consecutive week, with $1,588,922 for the nine-performance stint. Even more notable was the mileage left in The Phantom of the Opera, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month with a new weekly record at the Majestic Theatre of $1,751,488.

Even the smaller shows benefited from the holiday traffic. Now nearing its fourth anniversary on Broadway and playing in the relatively tiny Helen Hayes Theatre, Rock of Ages set a new house high, also for the second week in a row, with $745,205.

All told, five productions posted weekly grosses north of $2 million and an impressive 14 hurdled the $1 million mark.

Other strong performers that topped $1 million during the Dec. 30 week included Evita ($1,548,991), Once ($1,446,088), Mamma Mia! ($1,439,211), Jersey Boys ($1,367,678), Elf ($1,267,397), Nice Work If You Can Get It ($1,265,146), Chicago ($1,174,672) and Bring It On: The Musical ($1,002,121).

Plays tend to be passed over in favor of musicals by the holiday crowds, but the Glengarry Glen Ross revival starring Al Pacino continued its stellar run, grossing $1,228,867 for the week. And War Horse, which is winding down for its Jan. 6 closing date, had a robust week with $1,041,448. The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof revival starring Scarlett Johansson, which is currently in previews, also came close to joining the big boys’ club, with a weekly total of $966,948.

Other plays were less fortunate. Despite posting a Jan. 6 closing notice, interest remained minimal in Dead Accounts, the poorly reviewed comedy starring Katie Holmes, which played to 48% capacity with $327,803. And the critically lauded Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? revival, which earned a place on many theater reviewers’ year-end Ten Best lists, continued to struggle, with box office of $344,190 for 59% capacity.

On an up note, the kid-friendly Peter and the Starcatcher boasted its best week ever at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, grossing $768,302. While the show is set to end its Broadway run on Jan. 20, producers have announced that due to ongoing demand, the Peter Pan backstory play will move to Off Broadway’s New World Stages, reopening in the spring.

That downscaled transfer mirrors the path of other shows that have carved out a post-Broadway life at the same venue, including Avenue Q, Million Dollar Quartet and Rent.