Pumped by 'Hamilton,' Broadway Box Office Hits Record Annual High of $1.367 Billion

Joan Marcus

Lin-Manuel Miranda's unstoppable blockbuster dethroned Disney's 'The Lion King' in 2016 after three years at the top, followed by 'Wicked' and 'Aladdin.'

Broadway grosses hit an all-time high in 2016, and white-hot hit Hamilton, with its premium tickets skirting $1,000, was the fresh fuel driving the economic engine.

Box office through Dec. 25, the official 52-week cutoff of the sector's calendar year, totaled an unprecedented high of $1.367 billion, according to figures compiled by trade organization The Broadway League. That's up from $1.354 billion in 2015 and from the previous record of $1.362 billion in 2014. Attendance for the calendar year also rose to a record total of 13.25 million, up from 2014's high of 13.13 million.

Unsurprisingly, Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop historical juggernaut was the top-selling show of the year, grossing $105.5 million, with 558,977 admissions. That stellar result makes it clear that the departure of many of the show's original breakout cast had little impact on ticket demand. Ditto the calls from Trump supporters to boycott the musical after the president-elect made a fuss on Twitter following a direct appeal to his vp-elect, Mike Pence, from the Hamilton cast for minority inclusiveness in the incoming administration's policies.

The Hamilton triumph follows a notable surge over the holidays, with two recent weeks of $3 million-plus apiece. The show's cumulative total since it began performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in July 2015 has now reached $142.8 million.

The only other show to hurdle the $100 million mark this year was Disney's perennial draw The Lion King, which earned $103.2 million but exceeded Hamilton in attendance, clocking 695,017 admissions. (Varying theater capacities and premium ticket sales account for such differences.) The Lion King, which is approaching its 20th anniversary on Broadway next year, had been the highest-grossing show for the last three consecutive years.

The year's top draw according to admissions was another longtime fixture: Wicked, now in its 14th year, with 719,608 tickets sold, coming in third in grosses with $89 million. The fourth-highest earner was another Disney musical: Aladdin, with $78.2 million, finishing second in attendance, with 699,143. Rounding out the top five is The Book of Mormon, with 453,124 admissions and a box-office total of $70.6 million.

Other strong performers in 2016 include Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, School of Rock, which chalked up $53.6 million, while a 28-year-old production from the same composer, The Phantom of the Opera, was close behind with $46.2 million. The revival of Lloyd Webber's Cats also did well for a show that has been running only since summer, raking in $22.2 million.

Also among the strong-selling musicals of the 2015-16 season was On Your Feet! ($44.8 million) Fiddler on the Roof ($41.9 million), The Color Purple ($37 million), Waitress ($36.9 million) and Cirque du Soleil Paramour ($34.2 million), which opened just after the season cutoff. Among earlier season holdovers still generating their share of revenue: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ($45.7 million), Matilda ($43.4 million), Kinky Boots ($39.2 million), Something Rotten! ($35.2 million), Jersey Boys ($34.1 million) and Chicago ($28.5 million).

While musicals tend to dominate the Broadway economy, a handful of plays did solid business, led by The Humans with $22.2 million, buoyed by superlative reviews and a Tony award for best play. Lead producer on that drama, Scott Rudin, was also behind two other robust nonmusical entries: The Front Page ($16.5 million) and The Crucible ($11.7 million), both propelled by starry casts. In the second and final year of its run, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time earned a very respectable $16.5 million before it closed in September.

Of the new-season shows that opened in the fall, the top performer to date has been the musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, with $11.1 million. Also showing promise is A Bronx Tale, with $5.7 million in a little over seven weeks; and Dear Evan Hansen, earning $5.4 million in its first six weeks.

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