Two years after theaters shut down because of the pandemic, Broadway is seemingly back on track. And Hugh Jackman is leading the way.
Many shows are enjoying respectable, if not robust, sales, according to figures released Tuesday by the Broadway League, the industry’s trade group. Chief among them: a revival of “The Music Man” that stars Jackman, the actor best known for playing Wolverine in the X-Men cinematic franchise.
The show, which opened in February, grossed nearly $3.5 million over the seven-day period that ended March 20. That made it one of a handful of Broadway productions to have ever passed the $3 million weekly sales mark.
Tickets for the production sold for as much as $697 last week. On resale websites, some prime seats have a $3,000-plus asking price.
“We are so grateful for the audiences that have not only embraced our show but have returned with such incredible enthusiasm to theaters all up and down Broadway,” said “Music Man” producer Kate Horton in a statement.
Other top-grossing shows during the previous week included such longtime hits as “Wicked” ($1.9 million in sales) and “The Lion King” ($1.8 million).
Then, there’s “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip hop-fueled take on American history that consistently became Broadway’s biggest weekly seller after it opened in 2015. It grossed $2.3 million last week — still a sizable figure, though far short of the $3 million mark it used to regularly hit in the pre-pandemic era.
“Hamilton” is also no longer Broadway’s most expensive ticket — its highest priced seat for the past week was $449, far below “The Music Man, which had the industry’s top ticket price. In its heyday, the costliest “Hamilton” ticket was routinely $849.
Officials with “Hamilton” declined comment.
Tuesday’s sales announcement marked the first time the Broadway League has released weekly figures for individual shows since theaters started reopening in the second half of 2021. Many who follow the industry thought the numbers might spell a picture of a business very much in the recovery stage, with shows having to offer massive discounts to attract audiences.
In fact, it was arguably just the opposite. Not only are shows selling tickets, they are also charging more for them overall, notwithstanding the “Hamilton” dip. The average paid admission for the week was $135.98 — or about $22 higher than the figure during roughly the same weekly period in 2019.
Industry professionals pointed to a number of contributing factors for Broadway’s return. The most obvious one? A pent-up demand for live entertainment.
“I think people were starved for something to do,” said Victoria Cairl, a theater marketing specialist.
Broadway has also maintained strict COVID safety protocols, requiring that theatergoers show proof of vaccination and wear masks while inside venues. And it has done so even as New York City has relaxed many such rules — for example, restaurant and bar patrons no longer need proof of vaccination.
Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin said keeping the theater protocols in place certainly haven’t hurt sales. Cairl, the marketing professional, agreed.
“When I talk to my friends, they feel more comfortable going to a Broadway show than they do going to a crowded bar,” Cairl said.
Broadway relies heavily on out-of-towners to fill theaters — and given the steep decline of tourism during much of the pandemic, that could have spelled trouble for shows. But as virus numbers decline, visitors are returning to the city, which is clearly helping ticket sales.
NYC & Company, the city’s tourism marketing arm, said the city is on track to welcome 56.5 million visitors in 2022 — or about 85% of the pre-pandemic level.
Broadway is likely to see sales increase in the coming weeks, since more than a dozen shows are set to open. A number of them include high-profile actors, such as Daniel Craig, who will appear in a production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” and Billy Crystal, who stars in “Mr. Saturday Night,” a new musical based on the movie of the same name.
In other words, Wolverine may have some competition.