Theatre Stage

Broadway Experiencing Biggest Ticket Sales Slump In Three Years

Now that the holidays are officially over, a general sense of frugalness is in the air. As consumerism continues to increase every holiday season, so does the amount we try to save once the season is complete. Retailers, restaurants, and any other industry that would require the spending of money takes the hit every year, but depending on how much they made during the holidays themselves, they’re normally fine. 

An industry that’s taking the hit particularly hard this year is Broadway. Unless gifted tickets, people tend to stay away from purchasing big ticket items, literally, when they’re trying to save up. This year, it’s been reported that the industry is witnessing a 28% decrease in overall sales with the new year/holiday season. That’s still an estimated $31 million coming into the box office, however, it marks a three-year low for the industry as a whole. 

Embed from Getty Images

Along with the loss of money, theater attendance is also down 6% compared to last year’s stats, however, Broadway had three more active shows this time last January. Over this past weekend (1/10/20), Broadway also closed down three shows but all of them were planned closings as the shows themselves had planned limited runs. 

“While 18 shows grossed over $1 million, most only made it over that threshold by a hair. Only five cracked $1.5 million – down from ten last week. Bucking the downward trend were traditional, non-musical plays, which performed markedly better than they did over the holiday frame. This pattern isn’t unusual – most holiday buyers spend on song-and-dance spectacles – but it was still good news to their producers,” (Forbes).

Embed from Getty Images

2019 in general was the opposite of successful for Broadway; as an industry they grossed $67 million less than what they earned in 2018. The reasoning behind why Broadway takes such a massive financial hit when certain shows fail has a lot to do with real estate costs. As we all know, New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the US to live in, and for businesses, the cost of theater space is just as high. So when a show “flops” in terms of ticket sales and theater attendance, the industry itself loses the most money in real estate and production investments.

When shows continue to remain active into the new year, it typically means that the industry is making an influx of money back on the investment, so they remain open. This year, only four plays remain from 2019’s playbill;  Hadestown, Ain’t Too Proud, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Beetlejuice. 

When 2019 began, Broadway saw seven plays get carried into the new year, three of which are listed above and continue to sell. In total, the number of show closings within 2019 has caused the industry to lose about $100 million in investments and real estate costs. 

“Booking schedules define [a lot] of the [financial] landscape, and those are affected more by individual productions than market trends. This season, several big musical houses have remained empty, leaving big money on the table. That, and the fact that The Palace [a major Broadway Theater] is under renovation accounts for a whole percentage point of lost sales. However, every show is different, and comparing one season to the next is always tricky,” Brian Mahoney, Vice President of ticket sales for the Shubert Organization.