How Broadway achieved its newest record-breaking season

Broadway's latest season achieved a record for both theater attendance and ticket grosses. The musical phenomenon 'Hamilton' no doubt helped, as did longtime strong performers like 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked.'

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Lin-Manuel Miranda, actor and creator of the of the play 'Hamilton,' addresses the audience after the plays opening night on Broadway in New York.

The White Way was truly great this season, as Broadway experienced another record-breaking time for both theater attendance and ticket grosses. 

The amount of people who attended shows – more than 13 million – increased 1.6 percent from the season before, while the revenue for theaters increased 0.6 percent from the season before.

Industry observers are attributing the new records in part to the massive success of the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” the show about the Founding Father that has become a cultural phenomenon, as well as big performers like Disney’s “The Lion King,” the long-running musical adaptation of the hit animated film. 

As these statistics were achieved, however, ticket prices also went down for the first time ever recorded by the Broadway League, according to that organization. “Premium ticket sales for hot shows are pumping overall grosses, [but] discounts at slower-selling productions are keeping the combined rise in check,” Hollywood Reporter writer David Rooney wrote of this change.

And the highest-grossing shows were ones that have either been around for several years or are based on already-established properties. “The Lion King,” which opened almost 20 years ago; “Wicked,” which opened about 13 years ago; “Aladdin,” which opened in 2014 but is based on the successful 1992 Disney animated movie of the same name; and “The Book of Mormon,” which opened about five years ago, were the highest-grossing shows of the year. 

If producers knew what went into a breakout hit show, everyone would make one, but “Mormon” is no doubt the dream for many – the original show (though one that came with the names of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who co-wrote the script, music, and lyrics) that becomes a long-running box office mainstay. 

In addition, one form of theater is still a small portion of the Broadway box office. According to the New York Times, 13 percent of the Broadway revenue for the season was for plays. 

“I continue to be really worried about the plays,” Victoria Bailey, executive director of the Theater Development Fund (which is in charge of the TKTS stands where Broadway tickets can be bought), told the NYT. “When people are going to the theater, either as a tourist or for a celebratory event, they tend to go to musicals, and so I think it’s even harder for plays to make a go of it. In the short run, we’re holding even, but what is five years from now going to look like?”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.