Stellar New Year's Business Can't Quite Bridge Broadway's Annual Drop

'The Lion King'
Courtesy of Disney Theatrical Productions

Disney's 'The Lion King' was once again the year's top-selling show, raking in $102.7 million, but overall box office and attendance were both down for 2015.

If only Hamilton had opened in January.

A few extra months of that show's sellout business, with grosses upwards of $1.5 million a week since it opened in August, would have made up the difference that kept Broadway from matching its 2014 totals.

Buoyed by strong sales over the New Year’s week, Broadway’s annual totals came in at $1.354 billion and 12.98 million admissions for 2015. That’s down by a slim $7.8 million and 150,000, respectively, from the all-time high of 2014, which totaled $1.362 billion in box office and attendance of 13.13 million.

Still, nobody’s complaining. The week ending Jan. 3 was the best-attended and highest-grossing on Broadway in recorded history, according to figures supplied by the Broadway League. Weekly grosses hit a healthy $43 million, with 357,718 admissions, beating out last year’s total for the same week of $42.8 million and 346,913. Of the 38 productions currently on the boards, 20 shows topped the $1 million mark, four of them making north of $2 million.

The holiday coffers were boosted by several shows playing an extra performance, with nine-show schedules elevating weekly grosses at Wicked ($2,940,096), The Lion King ($2,878,505), Aladdin ($2,398,110), The Book of Mormon ($2,024,551), Fiddler on the Roof ($1,725,264), School of Rock ($1,671,622), The Phantom of the Opera ($1,651,287), Matilda ($1,556,824), Finding Neverland ($1,477,505), Kinky Boots ($1,359,430) and Something Rotten ($1,155,633), among others.

The Las Vegas-style magic variety show The Illusionists played 13 performances in the final week of its holiday engagement at the Neil Simon Theatre, setting a new house record for that venue of $1,801,327. New house records also were set by Aladdin and School of Rock.

While current-season monster hit Hamilton stuck to its regular eight-performance schedule, the show almost joined the elite $2 million club, grossing $1,959,785 for the week.

As expected, Disney was the top earner for the third consecutive year, with The Lion King grossing $102.8 million in 2015. Wicked followed in second place with $90.8 million, and another Disney show, Aladdin, came in third with $81 million.

The top-grossing nonmusical play of 2015 was the Tony-winning fall 2014 opener The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which totaled $39.3 million during the calendar year. That was followed by Larry David’s comedy Fish in the Dark, which made $27.6 million in its limited engagement; and the Helen Mirren vehicle, The Audience, with $22.1 million.

Other heavyweight earners among musicals in 2015 included The Book of Mormon ($79.5 million), Beautiful ($52.7 million) and An American in Paris ($52.2 million). While Hamilton played for just half the year, it grossed an impressive $37.3 million.

Broadway figures generally are calculated not according to calendar years but to theatrical seasons, which run from midyear to midyear, pegged to the Tony Awards in June. Totals for the 2015-16 season currently stand at $865,725,125, with 8,133,116 admissions. Seventeen more shows are scheduled to open in the next few months, before the Tony eligibility cutoff at the end of April.

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