Broadway Season Hits Record High

Hamilton Still new 3 - H 2016
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

New hits like 'Hamilton' and perennials like 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked' pushed 2015-16 season grosses to an all-time high north of $1.3 billion, with 13.3 million admissions.

The upward trend continued on Broadway during the 2015-16 season, with grosses hitting $1.37 billion and 13.3 million admissions for the 52-week period that wrapped May 22.

Those figures were released Monday as part of the Broadway League's annual tallies, showing an increase of 1.6 percent in attendance from the previous year and a hike of 0.6 percent in box office. That rise is attributed to the steady growth of tourism in New York City, the spreading popularity of musicals and the increased diversity of the Broadway landscape.

Average paid admission, however, dropped marginally from $104.18 in the 2014-15 season to $103.11 this year — the first such decrease in recorded history — indicating that while premium ticket sales for hot shows are pumping overall grosses, discounts at slower-selling productions are keeping the combined rise in check.

The increase in annual grosses was slender, up from $1,365,232,182 in 2014-15 to $1,373,253,725 for the current season. But the trajectory over the past four years paints a healthy picture for the industry, building from $1.14 billion in 2012-13 and $1.27 billion in 2013-14. Attendance has climbed by 15.1 percent from three seasons ago.

This season's shows also ran a record-breaking total of 1,648 playing weeks. In addition to holdovers, that covered 39 new productions — 16 musicals, 20 plays and three special events.

The biggest boost among the new openers, unsurprisingly, came from Hamilton, which has grossed $74 million in its 45 weeks on the boards. Other strong performers from the new-season crop include On Your Feet! ($34.9 million), School of Rock ($27.8 million), Fiddler on the Roof ($25.5 million) and The Color Purple ($21.8 million), while the more recent arrivals, Waitress ($7.7 million) and Shuffle Along ($7.2 million), show promise going into the 2016-17 season.

Those newcomers joined long-haul box-office titans The Lion King ($102.7 million), Wicked ($90.8 million), Aladdin ($80.9 million) and The Book of Mormon ($75.8 million), which were the top four earners of the season. Hamilton followed in fifth place, but will possibly inch higher in the chart next season, when it will play the full 52 weeks. However, being in a relatively small theater that seats just 1,321 makes it unlikely to challenge the long-running champs in bigger houses.

The top seller among nonmusicals was previous-season holdover The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ($32.9 million), followed by star-driven plays China Doll with Al Pacino ($12.6 million) and Misery with Bruce Willis ($12.5 million).

According to the Broadway League, attendance in its theaters during the season topped the number of tickets sold by the 10 professional New York and New Jersey sports teams combined by more than 2.7 million admissions.