Tourists back on Broadway


For American and foreign tourists, there definitely has been magic in the air on Broadway.

Tourists have accounted for about 65% of the 12.3 million tickets purchased to shows in New York in the 2006-07 season, the largest percentage in the past two decades, and attendance by international visitors has surpassed pre-Sept. 11 levels.

According to the latest annual demographic report released Monday by the League of American Theatres and Producers, foreign tourists purchased 1.9 million tickets, comprising 16% of Broadway attendance this past season, "the highest percentage in recent history."

The report, "The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2006-2007," is based on survey data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the Broadway season.

The study also found that Broadway continues to diversify its audience, with 3.18 million tickets, or 26%, purchased by non-whites in 2006-07 -- the highest proportion in recorded history. The number reflected a 17% increase from the 2005-06 season and a 56% jump from five years ago. Theatergoers under 18 years old accounted for a record 1.42 million tickets sold, an increase of 23% over the previous season.

"It is exciting to report that we are seeing a wider audience for Broadway," said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the League of American Theatres and Producers. "Our theatergoers are both younger and more diverse than ever, and we have more out-of-town guests experiencing Broadway. With our goal to make Broadway a stronger national brand, we do believe that the increased attendance from visitors to New York City reflects that these efforts are working."

The report also indicated that the use of the Internet for the purchase of tickets has skyrocketed 368% since the 1999-2000 season. Online purchase was the most popular method of buying tickets for a second straight year. Only 11% of theatergoers said they purchased their tickets via the phone, 20% said they went to the boxoffice and 27% bought their tickets on the day of the performance.

Word-of-mouth -- cited by 46% of theatergoers -- was the single strongest influence reported in show selection when it came to seeing a musical. Critical reviews and articles had more influence in decisions to see plays.

The study also found that Broadway continues to attract repeat customers, with the average theatergoer attending five shows in the past year, a figure level with the past several seasons. Those who saw 15 or more shows comprised 6% of the audience and represented 31% of all tickets sold.

The report is based on surveys administered by the league's research department at 23 different productions and at 72 individual performance times. In total, 10,800 questionnaires were distributed at multiple performances per show, and 5,109 were returned.