UPDATE: And the higher ticket prices are indeed the reason. According to the Los Angeles Times, the average price paid for a ticket (musical, play, or special) rose $5.46 to $103.88, the first time it has topped $100. Average price has increased over 33% since the 2008-09 season, which had an average price of $77.66 a ticket. What a bargain!
Broadway producers are definitely beaming today after The Broadway League released its official statistics for the 2013-14 season (which spanned from May 27, 2013 to May 25, 2014). Capping off with the highest-attended Memorial Day weekend in Broadway history, the 2013-2014 season yielded an all-time record $1.27 billion in grosses with a total attendance of 12.21 million, the sixth highest attended season in history.
The Broadway League also touted in its press release that “44 productions opened during the 2013-2014 season which included 16 musicals (12 new, 4 revivals), 25 plays (10 new, 14 revivals, 1 return engagement), and 3 specials.” Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of the Broadway League, also credited increasingly varied matinee performance schedules, varied curtain times, and increased ticket-buying options for helping increase attendance by offering more choices to theatergoers.
Though the total attendance increased 5.6% from last season’s 11.57 million, it was lower than the total attendance of the 2011-12 season (12.33 million) and the 2010-11 season (a record 12.53 million). One factor that helped was the increase in “playing weeks” in 2013-2014 over the previous season’s. Playing weeks are the total amount of full weeks that Broadway productions ran. In 2012-13, Hurricane Sandy and several unsuccessful productions led to a 16-year low of 1430 playing weeks, while this season rebounded with 1496 playing weeks. That is still less than the number of playing weeks of the 2011-12 and 2010-11 seasons, but it certainly is welcome news to producers.
So how did Broadway achieve it’s all-time highest grosses if it was only the sixth-highest attended season? Though the Broadway League hasn’t yet released its detailed report, it’s safe to assume that ticket prices again saw a sizable increase. Last season was the first in which the average paid admission for a musical was over $100 ($102.45, to be exact) and average paid admission for a Broadway ticket (musical, play, or special) was a record-shattering $98.42. Because the total attendance was not record setting, the 11.4% increase in gross from last season likely came down to increased ticket prices. For example, the top ticket price for Kinky Boots, which won the Best Musical Tony last year, increased from $227 to its current price of $349.
Regardless, it is absolutely great news for Broadway heading into the Tonys even if it isn’t the best news for the wallets of Broadway fans.