Broadway’s Record Box Office Season

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While “Hamilton” continues to be the hottest ticket in town, other New York City shows are drawing crowds too this season as Broadway finishes its “year” with a bang. The 2015-2016 season on Broadway has set box office records as the best attended and highest grossing in history, according to The Broadway League on Monday.

Box office totals for musicals and plays “on Broadway” reached a record gross of $1.37 billion, which is about $8 million more than the prior season, per the Broadway League, the trade organization for theater owners, producers and such. (Broadway seasons run from spring to spring, with the Tony Awards given out in June.)

Dollar figures alone can be misleading if tickets prices had gone up. But, this year, they actually dropped to an average paid admission (not counting exorbitant markups from brokers on “Hamilton”) of $103.11 per ticket versus $104.18 last season.

There were 13.3 million tickets sold, which is a 1.6 percent increase over attendance last season. Theater occupancy, which reflect how long shows run at every available venue, was also up and set a new record. Theaters were in use 1,648 weeks out of the total 2,080 possible (40 theaters times 52 weeks).

The fact that the number of seats sold grew indicates either more people went to Broadway shows this past year or attendees went more often. The box office results show that interest in live theater is not waning, perhaps thanks to “Smash,” “Glee,” and the live musicals on television the past couple of years (“Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” “Grease,” “The Wiz,” etc.).

“Hamilton” is a behemoth hit, amassing more than $1.37 billion in ticket sales for the past season and many months into the future that will put 13.3 million people in seats. But, it was only the fifth-highest grossing show of the season. The show is in a medium-sized theater (1,321 seats), so shows in larger venues that may not have sold out completely gross more money and bring in more sales.

Simba was still the king of Broadway, even though “The Lion King” has played there for 18 years. “The Lion King” grossed $102.7 million last season and the NYC production and other touring casts have taken in $6.2 billion worldwide and been seen by 85 million people over the 18 years.

The next three highest grossers (ahead of “Hamilton”) were “Wicked,” “Aladdin,” and “The Book of Mormon.” That raises concerns about the long-term success of recent shows (besides one about a founding father.) The top four shows in sales have been around for years.

Plays, by contrast, do not bring in as much money as musicals, but they also cost far less to put on. While Broadway enjoyed a record box office season, only 13 percent of the total Broadway grosses this past season was earned by plays. The highest grossing play this past year was the 2015 Tony Award winner, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” with a gross of $32.9 million.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

The Broadway League: 2015-16 Broadway End-Of-Season Statistics
New York Times: Broadway Defies the Odds With Another Record-Breaking Season
Forbes: Broadway Has Highest-Grossing Season In History, But ‘Hamilton’ Cuts Both Ways
Washington Post: Broadway’s attendance soars but box office mostly flat

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