With “Hamilton” pushing premium ticket prices to new highs and a fresh crop of popular titles like “Dear Evan Hansen” powering hearty sales, the 2016-17 Broadway season hit a record high of $1.45 billion, with attendance weighing in at 13.27 million, the second-highest tally on record.
The final cume of $1,449,321,565 at the Broadway box office was a whopping $80 million more than the $1.37 billion record set at the end of last season. That big jump comes as producers have gotten bolder in jacking up the premium prices at Broadway’s hottest shows, with the new, big-money pricing scheme at “Hamilton” clearing a path for the ultra-hot “Hello, Dolly!” to hit similar highs. At the same time, the 2016-17 season has yielded two musicals that have proven consistently strong sellers since opening in the fall — “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” — as well as the robust new additions of “Come From Away,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and “Anastasia,” which have added their own coin to the pot.
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The 2016-17 attendance total of 13,270,343 is only a slight downshift from last season’s record 13.32 million, and is further mitigated by the fact that the number of playing weeks logged in 2016-17 (1,580 across the season) was nearly 80 weeks less than the 2015-16 season total. That means that on average, a higher number of people turned out for each playing week than did during the previous season. (Broadway counts a season’s total playing weeks as the number of weeks played by each production, tallied separately and then added together.)
Leading the way at the box office was “Hamilton,” raking in a whopping $129.9 million over the 52 weeks of the season, thanks to the stratospheric demand and high premium price that together drive up the show’s average price paid per ticket into the realm of $300 a pop. On the season’s Top 10 chart, “Hamilton” was followed by the usual suspects of major titles, including “The Lion King” ($104.8 million), “Wicked” ($91.3 million), “Aladdin” ($79.3 million), and “The Book of Mormon” ($69.5 million). Goosed recently by the addition of Sara Bareilles to the cast, “Waitress” ($50.6 million) placed high on the list, as did Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “School of Rock” ($54.6 million) as well as the now-closed Cirque du Soleil outing “Paramour” ($45.3 million).
Josh Groban, meanwhile, has helped draw crowds to “Great Comet” ($33.8 million) since the show began performances in October, with buzzy “Dear Evan Hansen” ($30 million), which opened a couple of weeks later, keeping pace. Among musicals revivals, “Hello, Dolly!” has racked up a huge $18.4 million in the relatively short time it’s been on the boards, with the Bette Midler-led production rapidly catching up to Glenn Close in “Sunset Boulevard” ($18.9 million), which opened several weeks earlier. Jake Gyllenhaal’s brief run in “Sunday in the Park With George” brought that show to $10.2 million.
Among plays, “The Front Page” ($22 million) led the way, with sales fueled by a critical mass of stars that included Nathan Lane and John Slattery, and a well-known classic title. Last year’s Tony champ, “The Humans” ($18.3 million), earned a strong total in its relatively long run, while Cate Blanchett attracted business to “The Present” ($10.9 million) and “Oh, Hello” ($10.1 million) brought comedy crowds to Broadway.
Forty-five productions opened over the course of the 2016-17 season, which ran from the week ending May 29, 2016, through the week ending May 21, 2017. The season’s 20 musicals were comprised of 13 new titles (an unusually high number), six revivals, and one return (from “Motown”), and its 20 plays including 10 new and nine revivals, plus a return run for “An Act of God.” Five were classified as specials (such as the return visit of “The Illusionists”).
As the current season winds down, the new one has already begun: The Broadway incarnation of London’s well-received “1984” started up last week in advance of its June 22 opening.