Summertime, and Broadway Living is Hard: Attendance Drops 8 Percent

Broadway saw an 8 percent decrease in attendance for summer 2013.

(from New York Times, September 5, 2013) Following a recent trend of declining attendance, Broadway sees its lowest summertime attendance since 2003. Overall, attendance to Broadway shows between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays was down 8 percent compared to 2012 according to a data analysis from theater producers. This fact is despite an increase in ticket sales from $321.7 million in summer 2012 to $323.7 million. The entire 2012-13 Broadway season was down 6 percent, partially due to the shutting down of theaters and shows in response Hurricane Sandy in October.

One reason that attendance may have dropped is because new musicals and plays like “Soul Doctor” and “First Date” are not bringing in the audiences they were projected to attain. There is also a lack of popular plays, such as Tom Hanks’ “Lucky Guy,” compared to last summer. Even some consistently popular shows have seen a decrease in attendance. “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” saw its first week with less than $1 million in box-office sales at the beginning of the summer season. Many theaters this summer were between shows and sat empty for part or all of the summer season, providing another source for the decrease in attendance.

The most popular shows such as “Wicked” and “The Lion King” had the best attendance and also contributed to the higher ticket sales. Currently, the most expensive ticket to a Broadway show is $477 for a seat to see “The Book of Mormon.”  Newer shows like “Kinky Boots” and “Matilda” have also had higher ticket sales that helped offset the decrease in overall theater attendance.

Despite the low attendance figures, theater producers and owners remain optimistic about the overall 2013-14 theater season. The president of the Shubert Organization, Robert E. Wankel, feels that “…the fall is looking great.” His optimism is supported by a 5 percent increase in attendance for the first week after Labor Day.